Search and seizure warrants: assault and obstruction offences

Criminal Finances Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:15 pm on 17th November 2016.

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

Photo of Ben Wallace Ben Wallace Minister of State (Home Office) (Security)

This clause, and those that follow, fill a gap in the general law relating to those who conduct investigations of being placed in danger of being assaulted or obstructed. It is a general offence to assault another person, but in addition to that, police officers and HMRC officers are protected by specific offences that relate to the obstruction or assault of those officers in the course of their duties.

There are two very good reasons for specific offences. Those officers, by the very nature of their actions and work, face a much higher danger and likelihood of being assaulted. For example, they often enter the residences of serious criminals. I am sure the Committee sees that that is a wholly different scenario from what is envisaged in the general offence of assault. We, as law-abiding citizens, are not actively placing ourselves in situations that put us in danger.

Although we are unaware of any prosecutions relating to the assault or obstruction of police officers or others while exercising powers under the Proceeds of Crime Act, there is wide recognition that it is an important safeguard. It is a gap in the law that under POCA, investigators of certain agencies are put in situations where they could be assaulted or obstructed, and yet there are no connected offences. Section 453A of POCA has already created assault and obstruction offences for civilian accredited financial investigators operating under the Act. The clause provides that those who can execute search and seizure warrants in civil recovery investigations have a similar protection.

Photo of Rupa Huq Rupa Huq Shadow Minister (Home Office) (Crime and Prevention)

We have had two good debates on the Floor of the House recently about the assault of police officers. These are very good provisions, and we are happy to support them.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 17 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 18