Clause 296 - Release of detained cash

Part of Proceeds of Crime Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:30 pm on 10 January 2002.

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Photo of Bob Ainsworth Bob Ainsworth The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department 2:30, 10 January 2002

You can see, Mr. McWilliam, from the way that I have managed to garner support from my own Back Benches that we follow a long and weary route on this Bill.

When we broke for lunch we were talking about amendments grouped with amendment No. 458. I indicated a preparedness to examine the situation with regard to amendment No. 458 about the position of a claimed owner's ability to apply for the release of cash or to become a party to the proceedings in the light of arguments put forward. I suggested that if I found a case for that, having listened to the arguments, I would table an amendment on Report. I said that I was not prepared to accept amendment No. 461.

On amendment No. 419, I said that it was our intention to allow a person from whom cash was

seized to be a party to the proceedings and to be guaranteed an opportunity to make representations at a forfeiture hearing. That would be achieved by rules of court that apply under section 53(2) of the Magistrates' Court Act 1980, which provides that the court—after hearing the evidence—and the party shall make the order for which the complaint is made or dismiss the complaint. The rules of court will provide that an application for forfeiture is to be regulated in the same manner as a complaint. The amendment is, therefore, unnecessary.

The person from whom the cash was seized will additionally have the right to apply for the release of detained cash at any time. If he can establish that it is neither recoverable property nor intended for use by any person in unlawful conduct, the court or sheriff may order the release of the cash. In the light of that assurance, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will withdraw the amendment.

As for the Government amendments, new clause 9 replaces in an extended form the protection afforded by subsections (4) and (5) of clause 297 for victims of unlawful conduct who claim entitlement to cash where forfeiture is being sought by a constable or customs officer. It applies to persons who claim that some or all of the cash seized under clause 293 rightfully belongs to them and they were deprived of it, albeit through unlawful conduct. Cash may be released to the victim even when criminal proceedings with which the cash is connected will be commenced and have not been concluded. It will be for the court to decide whether that would be appropriate.

New clause 9 follows the same policy as the provisions in paragraph 9 of schedule 1 of the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001, in relation to cash that is suspected of being linked to terrorism. It does not enable the release of cash that is retained under any other legislation, for instance under section 22 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, or any other part of this Bill, for instance under a restraint order in part 2.

Amendments Nos. 331, 333 and 336 are consequential amendments.