Clause 6

Fraud Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 12:45 pm on 20th June 2006.

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Possession etc. of articles for use in frauds

Photo of Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve Shadow Attorney General

I beg to move amendment No. 5, in clause 6, page 3, line 3, after ‘article', insert ‘intended'.

Photo of Sir David Amess Sir David Amess Conservative, Southend West

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments:

No. 9, in clause 6, page 3, line 3, leave out ‘for use' and insert

‘which he intends to be used'.

No. 10, in clause 6, page 3, line 3, leave out ‘connection with' and insert ‘furtherance of'.

No. 11, in clause 6, page 3, line 3, at end insert

‘carried out by him or any other person'.

Photo of Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve Shadow Attorney General

In clauses 6 and 7 we deal with an issue of detail that is of some importance and althoughit may be of greater importance in the context ofclause 7, clause 6 is the right place to tackle the matter.

I have difficulty with the clause, which says:

“A person is guilty of an offence if he has in his possession or under his control any article for use in the course of or in connection with any fraud.”

As we discussed on Second Reading—going back to the old Theft Act—this is a mixture of IT fraud and the old offence of going equipped to cheat and covers both areas; that is, having in one’s possession something that could be used in connection with fraud. What does “for use” mean? Does it mean that the prosecution has to prove that the article was for use with a fraud or merely that it can be used in a fraud? If it is the latter, the clause is too widely drawn. The specific intent must be proved. As I said on Second Reading, I am anxious about that because articles that could be used in fraud could also be put to innocent uses. I am concerned to ensure that the person who we criminalise and prosecute successfully is the person who intends to use an article in fraud, not just the one who has it in his possession.

Photo of David Heath David Heath Shadow Leader of the House of Commons, Shadow Spokesperson (Cabinet Office)

Both of us want to incorporate that intent into the clause. May I suggest that his formulation does not quite do that? It provides for the object or article to be intended for use, but that intent does not fall on the person who is judged to be guilty of the offence. There might be a flaw in his drafting in the use of the passive rather than the active mood of the verb.

Photo of Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve Shadow Attorney General

I intended that my amendment should refer to the intent of the person when he had the article in his possession. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman’s amendment is better than mine. We shall discuss that with the Solicitor-General and if the matter is pressed to the vote and I prefer the hon. Gentleman’s amendment, I shall support his and ask leave to withdraw mine.

We are both looking at the same issue. Perhaps the Solicitor-General is in a position to provide us with reassurance. However, I am anxious, because as I have said it seems possible to have in one’s possession an article that could be used for a fraud but have it for use in a conjuring trick or to manufacture it for the purpose of using it in a conjuring trick. I am sure that one could find numerous examples. It is important that we ensure that we are not suddenly outlawing the possession of all sorts of devices or gadgets that may have a lawful application as well as a potentially unlawful one.

Photo of David Heath David Heath Shadow Leader of the House of Commons, Shadow Spokesperson (Cabinet Office)

I rise to speak—briefly, I suspect—in support of the basic intention of the hon. Gentleman’s amendment.

It being One o’clock, The Chairman adjourned the Committee without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.

Adjourned till this day at Four o’clock.