Clause 341 - Search and seizure warrants

Proceeds of Crime Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 12:30 pm on 29 January 2002.

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Photo of Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve Shadow Minister (Home Affairs) 12:30, 29 January 2002

I beg to move amendment No. 551, in page 197, line 17, at end insert

'but that the material cannot at the time of making the application be particularised.'.

The clause deals with search and seizure warrants—again, important powers. Subsection (3) specifies what the application to a judge for a search and seizure warrant must contain. Subsection (2) deals with the person and the property specified in the application or confiscation, money laundering or civil recovery investigation, which must be linked to them.

Subsection (3) provides that

''the warrant is sought for the purposes of the investigation;

(b) that the warrant is sought in relation to the premises specified'' and

''(c) that the warrant is sought in relation to material specified in the application, or that there are reasonable grounds for believing that there is material falling within section 342(6),(7) or (8) on the premises.''

Reading clauses 342(6), (7) and (8), we find that clause 342(6) states:

''In the case of a confiscation investigation, material falls within this subsection if it cannot be identified at the time of the application but it . . . relates to the person specified in the application'' and goes on to spell that out.

This is a drafting amendment. I could not understand why it was not spelled out in subsection (3) that the material could not be particularised, because it is an important issue. Blanket applications should not be made. I note that that was how the matter was dealt with in previous legislation, which is why I tabled the amendment.

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

I am not sure that the hon. Gentleman has not effectively answered the point. Under the amendment, subsection (3)(c) would expressly state that a search warrant issued under its second limb relates to material that cannot be particularised. It would have no substantive effect. As he said, the point is covered in clause 342(6), (7) and (8).

Photo of Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

To save the Minister time and trouble, after rereading this particular bit of my ingenuity, it seems that he is completely right.

Mr. Ainsworth: At this point, I ask the hon. Gentleman to withdraw the amendment.

Photo of Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

I was reading the text of the search and seizure warrants against the previous text. The Minister properly answered my question, because the measure is plainly included elsewhere. I have reread the clause and I do not see any distinction that reduces the value of the requirement that one cannot particularise, although I may have thought that there was one when I drafted the amendment. In those circumstances, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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

I beg to move amendment No. 291, in page 197, line 25, after 'constable' insert 'or a customs officer'.

Photo of Mr Bill O'Brien Mr Bill O'Brien Labour, Normanton

With this it will be convenient to take Government amendment No. 292.

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

The amendments will enable Customs officers, as well as constables, to use search powers when a search and seizure warrant has been made by the court in relation to a confiscation investigation or a money laundering investigation.

Customs officers already have such a power that can be used for confiscation investigations under the Drug Trafficking Act 1994, the Proceeds of Crime (Northern Ireland) Order 1996 and the Criminal Justice Act 1988, as amended. They have experience in exercising search warrants during investigations into the proceeds of criminal conduct. The Government want them to keep the powers, and the amendments are necessary to ensure that they do.

Amendment agreed to.

Clause 341, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.