Clause 188 - Enforcement as fines etc

Proceeds of Crime Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 12:45 pm on 11 December 2001.

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Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Mr Nick Hawkins Mr Nick Hawkins Conservative, Surrey Heath

I want to explore the clause in a brief stand part debate. When reading the Bill, and continually referring backwards and forwards between the England and Wales provisions and the Northern Ireland provisions, I noticed some major differences in relation to the clause. Unlike most other clauses in this part of the Bill, there is a difference between clause 188 and clauses 36 and 37. I assume that that is because of some different arrangements under the Criminal Justice Act (Northern Ireland) 1945 and the functions of the court as to fines and subsection (3), which refers to article 35 of the Criminal Justice (Northern Ireland) Order 1998 under which parents and guardians pay the fines instead of children. It struck me as odd, in relation to money laundering, drug trafficking and criminal racketeering, to see references under subsection (3) to situations when a parent or guardian pays a fine instead of a child. That provision is incongruous, given the offences that it covers. Surely, situations will not arise when parents or guardians pay fines instead of children in respect of money laundering and criminal racketeering.

I will be grateful if the Under-Secretary will explain to the Committee why the clause is so different from clauses 36 and 37. It would be helpful for the Committee to know the ways in which the fines regime differs and why parents and guardians should fall into such a category.

Photo of Bob Ainsworth Bob Ainsworth The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

I sincerely hope that I shall be able to do as the hon. Gentleman asks.

The clause provides that confiscation orders, as at present, will continue to be enforced as Crown court fines. Subsection (2) requires the Crown court, as in England and Wales, to set a term of imprisonment in default of payment when it makes a confiscation order. The maximum default term that may be imposed is determined by the size of the confiscation order. Such matters are prescribed in statute. There is no difference in the maximum default term applicable between the various United Kingdom jurisdictions. Accordingly, in each of the various United Kingdom jurisdictions, a confiscation order will be treated in the same way as a fine in the relevant jurisdiction.

One of the main differences between England and Wales and Northern Ireland is that Crown court fines in Northern Ireland are not enforced through the magistrates court. That results in some differences between the two jurisdictions in the powers of enforcement available. The main difference is that, when default occurs, no further assessment of the defendant's means to pay is held by the Northern Ireland court, as the means assessment will have to be made when the sentence is first imposed.

The main burden of enforcing such orders will continue to fall on the main prosecuting authority in Northern Ireland, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions. However, when the director is appointed as the enforcement authority, the responsibility will fall on the Assets Recovery Agency. The Crown court will continue to have the power to allow payment by instalments, but when the defendant defaults on one instalment, he will be treated as having defaulted on all outstanding instalments. As in England and Wales, subsection (3) ensures that parents and guardians cannot be required to pay an amount due under a confiscation order made against a young person. I hope that the hon. Gentleman is reassured that the problem to which he referred will not apply to confiscation orders.

Photo of Mr Nick Hawkins Mr Nick Hawkins Conservative, Surrey Heath

I am still slightly puzzled. Under what circumstances does the Under-Secretary anticipate that, under the Bill, the order would apply to a child or young person? That does not seem to be the target of the Bill in any way, shape or form. I am still puzzled why the Government need, whether in Northern Ireland or England and Wales, the provisions in subsection (3).

Photo of Bob Ainsworth Bob Ainsworth The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. Such a situation will not arise in the overwhelming majority of circumstances. However—

It being One o'clock, The Chairman proceeded, pursuant to Sessional Order D [30 October] and the Order of the Committee [13 November] to put forthwith the Question already proposed from the Chair.

Question agreed to.

Clause 188 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

The Chairman then proceeded to put forthwith the Questions necessary to dispose of the business to be concluded at that time.

Clauses 189 to 199 ordered to stand part of the Bill.