Clause 32

Serious Crime Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:30 pm on 3 July 2007.

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Unincorporated associations

Question proposed,That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of James Brokenshire James Brokenshire Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

There is a small technical point about unincorporated associations. Again, this relates to the circumstances where a serious crime prevention order has been taken out against an unincorporated  association. The clause makes it clear that actions are to be brought in the name of the unincorporated association, rather than any specific individuals. It also makes it clear that if there is a fine attached to an offence, it should be paid out of the funds of the association, rather than by any specific individual. The Minister refers to the possibility of connivance having relation to the clause.

Obviously, an unincorporated association, by its nature, is a group or a body of individuals who make up that association. Its membership may change from time to time. The Minister may not be able to answer this question immediately, but a thought that crossed my mind in relation to fines is that the Bill says that fines will be paid out of the association, but if the association does not have such funds, in those circumstances normally one would look in terms of individual liability that would attach to the members. I know that there are specific provisions that govern when someone is deemed to be a member, or when the membership changes, which are contained in the earlier part of the clause, but I seek clarification or assurance from the Minister as to whether the situation has been envisaged where a fine has been levied but there are insufficient assets from the unincorporated association to meet such a liability, and what would happen in such circumstances.

Photo of Vernon Coaker Vernon Coaker Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office) (Crime Reduction)

I reiterate that persons, or whoever is connected with the unincorporated association, will be liable only if they have conducted a conspiracy that did not meet the serious crime prevention order conditions. That gives me the chance to stress that that would not be so if someone were negligent. That is the important point. Subsection (7) states:

“If an offence under section 26 committed by an incorporated association is proved to have been committed by the consent or connivance of an officer of the association, he (as well as the association) is guilty of the offence and liable to be proceeded against and punished accordingly.”

What one would have to look at in terms of the individuals who may have connived or conspired to subvert, is whether it would be appropriate for them to be held liable. That would be a decision for the court, and it would be a matter of whether that would be reasonable or not.

Photo of James Brokenshire James Brokenshire Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

To assist the Minister about the terms that I was making, I entirely accept his point about the connivance argument. I was looking at subsection (6), which deals with the fine imposedon the association and what might happen in circumstances where the funds of the association were not sufficient to pay the fine if it was levied at a high level. I was seeking clarification on that matter. I entirely accept the Minister’s point in relation to connivance.

Photo of Vernon Coaker Vernon Coaker Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office) (Crime Reduction)

I am sorry; I slightly misunderstood the point that the hon. Gentleman made. With respect to subsection (6), our intention would certainly be to pursue the funds of the association rather than to pursue individual members.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 32 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 33 ordered to stand part of the Bill.