Report (3rd Day)

Part of Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill – in the House of Lords at 11:15 pm on 12th March 2012.

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Photo of Lord McNally Lord McNally Deputy Leader of the House of Lords, The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice, Liberal Democrat Leader in the House of Lords 11:15 pm, 12th March 2012

Excellent; that was good for the record. Amendment 105A would amend the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 to allow courts to release restrained assets to fund legal expenses in criminal proceedings. POCA currently prevents restrained funds from being released to a defendant for legal expenses in relation to the offences to which the restraint order relates.

The Government recognise that there is a public perception that rich people are being given free legal aid because their assets are restrained. There are good policy reasons behind the current regime, but I can assure noble Lords that my department is currently working with the Home Office and the Attorney-General's Office to explore options that might allow the Government to recover legal aid costs wherever possible.

My noble friend-and this I welcome-has stimulated activity and cross-departmental examination of this issue in a constructive way. I cannot accept the amendment tonight, and I am not likely to within the context of the Bill. However, he can claim credit for stimulating active working with my department, the Home Office and the Attorney-General's Office, and we will see where this initiative takes us. In the mean time, I hope that my noble friend will withdraw his amendment.