Clause 302 - Property obtained through unlawful conduct

Part of Proceeds of Crime Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:45 pm on 10 January 2002.

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Photo of Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve Shadow Minister (Home Affairs) 3:45, 10 January 2002

I am reminded that, when the Committee debated civil recovery, there was some

discussion of what constituted property that had been obtained through unlawful conduct, but I will not waste the Committee's time by rehearsing that at length.

The Government amendments are interesting, and I welcome them, as it is clear that they are intended to clarify: indeed, the Minister will be aware that I have tabled an amendment to clause 306 that addresses the same issue.

Subsection (1) states:

''Property obtained through unlawful conduct is recoverable property.''

Equally, it is not the case that recoverable property is property obtained through unlawful conduct. The reverse does not apply, because there is a series of exceptions. The law—as stated under the Bill—is that the property is deemed to have been obtained through unlawful conduct, but that it cannot be recovered.

It may be an exercise in linguistics or semantics, but as the Minister is aware, I expressed at an earlier stage my worry about at what point it could be said that property ceased to be property obtained through unlawful conduct. Unless that point is identified, it could be for ever and a day before the limitation period expires. I was also worried about the possible opprobrium that might be attached to a person. People could say of him, ''Well, it may be true that the property could not be recovered from you, but it was still obtained through unlawful conduct.''

It is noteworthy that the Minister must have had a sliver of feeling in that direction, because the Government amendments attempt to clarify that issue. I raise that matter now because when we discuss clause 306 I shall tempt him a little further. I shall ask him to exclude the bona fide purchaser for value without notice from being deemed to possess property obtained through unlawful conduct. Save for what I have just said, I welcome the Government amendments.