Clause 332 - Judges

Part of Proceeds of Crime Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:45 am on 29 January 2002.

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Photo of Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve Shadow Minister (Home Affairs) 10:45, 29 January 2002

I am extremely grateful to my hon. Friend for his assistance.

Clause 332 says that applications in relation to a confiscation investigation must be made to a circuit judge. From our earlier debate, I understood that it was intended that the Crown court should deal with such matters. I accept that, as we said at an early stage of the proceedings, it is necessary for the judiciary who deal with the applications to be trained, because they may be unfamiliar with that area of the law.

However, by using the term ''Circuit Judge'', the Minister has missed an opportunity. First, there are likely to be recorders sitting in the Crown court who, by the nature of their practice, may have considerable expertise in that area. The consequence of the wording is that they would be deprived of the opportunity of sitting to hear and determine applications.

Secondly, on occasion High Court judges sit in the Crown court. We may not be certain how the judiciary will operate in criminal matters post-Auld, but they seem likely to continue along present lines. Red judges, who have gained considerable expertise in relevant fields before reaching the bench, will sometimes sit in the Crown court. Although their rulings and interpretations do not constitute case law, we know

from Crown court experience that transcripts are often produced and freely circulated among practitioners. Such transcripts are of great assistance subsequently, especially if the judgment of the person making the ruling carries weight, and he is known to be knowledgeable in his field.

The amendment seeks to avoid depriving society of the possible input in the Crown court of individuals with something to offer. Might the Government accept the amendment, or reconsider the idea at a later stage? I seek to be helpful.