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Part of Counter-Terrorism Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:30 am on 13th May 2008.

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Photo of Tony McNulty Tony McNulty Minister of State (Security, Counter-terrorism, Crime and Policing), Home Office 10:30 am, 13th May 2008

I do not want—however pleasant that may be—to go back to the imaginary Mr. McNulty. I thought we dispatched that last week. Equally, let me say what a pleasure it is to be under your chairmanship again, Mr. O’Hara. You will see that we have made, in your absence, some progress, but a little more today would be extremely useful for all concerned.

On the first point made by the hon. and learned Member for Beaconsfield, the architecture of this set of clauses on forfeiture of assets can be found in the Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000. This is largely replicated here. He is entirely right: there was a forfeiture element in section 111 of the Terrorism Act 2000, but that was just for Northern Ireland, and has since been repealed. Interestingly, that referred to a similar set of rules, but said that the court may forfeit if it believed that they were used for the purposes of terrorism, and we think that “will be used” is stronger than “may be used” in that regards. So the architecture is not new; it comes from there.

The entire regime that clauses 32 to 37 aim to build on, extends, as I said, that already in place in the Terrorism Act 2000. Such a regime is an important means of ensuring that assets held by convicted terrorists that either have been used, or will be used, for the purposes of terrorism, are removed from circulation. The regime also serves as an additional part of the sentence of the convicted, thereby adding to the deterrent power of the offence.

To ensure that the regime is as effective as possible, it is clearly important that the maximum amount of assets that might be used for the purposes of terrorism are available for the courts to consider for possible forfeiture. In this context, it is sometimes very difficult to prove an intention in the mind of the convicted person beyond reasonable doubt. In these cases, it is right that the court is able to come to its own belief about whether the assets in question will be used for the purposes of terrorism unless forfeited. We think that is an important element of the architecture, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman fairly said. Amendment No. 173 will deny the court that ability.

It is worth pointing out at this stage that this type of wording is not new in legislation. Section 111 of the now repealed element of the Terrorism Act 2000, which applied to Northern Ireland, allowed for forfeiture to  be ordered where the court believed that property may be used in connection with the activities of specified organisations unless forfeited. Actually, as I have implied, this is a lower test than the wording in the present clause, which requires the court to believe that the property will be used for terrorist purposes.