Proceeds of Crime Bill
Lord Goldsmith (Attorney General, Law Officers' Department; Labour)
My Lords, as is clear from the Bill, if the bank can demonstrate that that it is its property it will be able to recover it.
One of the difficulties—with respect, the noble and learned Lord did not deal with this point, although the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, made it well and clearly—is the fact that there are people in relation to whom it is not possible to say, "You committed this particular crime". But it may be possible to say that what they plainly possess in terms of property is the proceeds of crime. Precisely which crime—a bank robbery on this day, a drug trafficking offence on that day, proof of which is required by the criminal law—cannot be demonstrated.
The noble and learned Lord rightly puts the High Court judge before us as an object of admiration and fairness. If a High Court judge is persuaded—otherwise no order is made—that property held by someone is the proceeds of unlawful conduct, the question is whether or not that property should be taken from that person who has no right to keep it.
What is the burden of proof in such circumstances? I have dealt with this matter at every stage—Second Reading, in Committee and on Report. No one has ever gainsaid what I said. It is this. Although the civil standard applies—that of the balance of probabilities—the decisions of the courts make very clear indeed that where the issue is serious misconduct, although that is still determined on the balance of probabilities, because of the inherent unlikelihood that serious criminal conduct has been committed the courts require more cogent proof.