The clause addresses a gap in the law relating to those who conduct investigations being placed in danger of being assaulted or obstructed. Much of what I said in relation to clause 17 also applies here. We are extending powers to SFO officers elsewhere in the Bill—in clause 14 and schedule 1, as well as clauses 12 and 13. In doing so, we place them in the position of being vulnerable to being assaulted or at least obstructed.
Unlike the police, HMRC officers and others, there is no specific offence that relates to SFO officers who are assaulted or obstructed in the course of their duties in general. The Bill therefore creates one to support the more general provisions of extending powers to the SFO. SFO officers currently access the powers in POCA as accredited financial investigators, and there are offences of assault and obstruction that relate to them. As accredited financial investigators, they are therefore protected by the offences in section 453A. The clause will simply copy the same approach, to reflect the fact that they will be able to operate the powers in their own right.
This appears to us an entirely logical extension of the anti-assault powers. I know that taxmen are not always the most popular people, but I think MPs and used car salesmen are the most unpopular in the rankings of professions. We thoroughly support the clause.