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Part of Bank of England and Financial Services Bill [HL] – in the House of Lords at 6:45 pm on 15th December 2015.

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Photo of Lord Pannick Lord Pannick Crossbench 6:45 pm, 15th December 2015

My Lords, I think we all agree that to impose a reverse burden of proof on a person to establish their innocence of a disciplinary offence requires a strong justification. It is required not only by elementary fairness; it is also required by law, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brown, indicated. This is a criminal matter for Article 6 purposes because a disciplinary offence is regarded, by our courts and by Strasbourg, as a criminal matter if sanctions are imposed. So the question is this: what is the justification?

I have listened carefully to the debate to try to understand the justification being put forward, and it appears to amount to this. It will be difficult to prove a failure to comply with the new duty to take reasonable steps. That is the concern, but I do not understand it. The regulator has considerable investigative powers which enable it to obtain all the relevant evidence on whether a senior manager has complied with the new duty to take reasonable steps. If there is no document trail, which is the concern mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Sharkey, in his contribution, the regulator will rely precisely on that in establishing a failure to take reasonable steps. The banker, even if he has the assistance of the noble Lord, Lord Grabiner, acting for him, will be found guilty of the disciplinary offence of failing to take reasonable steps, and rightly so. That is the appropriate way to change a culture—a matter to which the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, and the noble Baroness, Lady Kramer, rightly referred. You change a culture by ensuring that the regulator brings a proper disciplinary charge; you do not change a culture by introducing an unfair regime.

The noble Lord, Lord Sharkey, said that the battle between the FCA and the bankers is unequal. This is a problem across the legal field in relation to prosecution authorities, but the answer is to ensure that the FCA has adequate resources; the answer is not to introduce an unfair regime. I do not think that the case for a reverse burden has come close to being made out. The strong justification has simply not been established.