Clause 173 - No order made: reconsideration of benefit

Proceeds of Crime Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 12:45 pm ar 11 Rhagfyr 2001.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

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

Photo of David Wilshire David Wilshire Ceidwadwyr, Spelthorne

I wish to refer to a general issue. I suspect that it relates to many clauses—although I have not tried to identify all of them. I will focus on subsection (7), but I wish the Minister to respond to the general issue.

Subsection (7) applies if the court has already sentenced the defendant for the offence, and it explains what the court can do in those circumstances. However, on this occasion, I am not worried about what the court can do. My concern is that someone who has been involved in a serious crime might be caught. Their offence might be money laundering, which would not be relevant to what I have to say, but in Northern Ireland the offence might be extortion, and offences such as GBH could be involved. A range of violent activities are conducted for terrorist purposes. As I and other Committee members have explained, extortion is used by paramilitary organisations to maintain control of their territories. Large sums can be involved, and people can be heavily involved in intimidation and violence.

In an earlier debate, an answer was not given to the question about what would happen if a pardon were involved. If we had had a stand part debate, I would have had the opportunity to refer to the case that was used as a debating point. Ministers have not answered the question. Perhaps they will answer it now.

My concern is that, if someone who has been sentenced for an offence and has entered a prison in Northern Ireland is subsequently pardoned and released, that offence and that conviction no longer stand, as they have been given an amnesty. What will happen if the court is invited to do various things after conviction, when the conviction has been quashed, or it has been set aside for political reasons? Some nasty problems might be lurking in that regard in a range of clauses. Have the Government thought about that, and if they have not, should they do so? If they do, will they respond—either now or later—to the question about people who are granted amnesties and pardons? That is highly likely to happen in Northern Ireland; indeed, it has happened—several hundred people who had been convicted of horrendous crimes have been released from prison, and they would no longer be covered by the provisions.

Photo of Mr George Foulkes Mr George Foulkes Minister of State, Scottish Office, Minister of State (Scotland Office)

The Government have considered that point, but I do not understand how it relates to clause 173 and reconsideration of benefit. As I understand it, there is no system of wide-scale pardons in Northern Ireland

Photo of Mr George Foulkes Mr George Foulkes Minister of State, Scottish Office, Minister of State (Scotland Office)

The convictions with which the Northern Ireland (Sentences) Act 1998 deals still stand as convictions.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 173 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 174 to 184 ordered to stand part of the Bill.