Clause 252 - Functions of interim receiver

Part of Proceeds of Crime Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 4:00 pm ar 13 Rhagfyr 2001.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Bob Ainsworth Bob Ainsworth The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department 4:00, 13 Rhagfyr 2001

Clause 251 provides for an interim receiving order for the detention, custody and preservation of property, and for the appointment of an interim receiver.

Clause 252 sets out the functions of the receiver. Subsection(3) provides legal protection for the interim receiver if he mistakenly, but without being negligent, deals with property that is not the property specified in the order, and causes loss or damage to that property. The term ''dealing with property'' includes disposing of it, taking possession of it, or removing it from the United Kingdom. Amendment No. 349 would remove the protection that is currently afforded to an interim receiver, and amendment No. 385 would do that in Scotland.

With regard to amendment No. 349, clause 251 provides that a director may apply for an interim receiving order to prevent property that is suspected of being recoverable property from being dissipated.

The court-appointed interim receiver has two functions: to look after and manage the disputed property pending a full court hearing, and to take an active role in ascertaining what is recoverable property.

The role of the interim receiver will be the key to the operation of civil recovery in most cases. When the interim receiver is appointed, he will endeavour to preserve the property. However, it is possible that in the course of discharging his duties, loss or damage may occur to property that is not the subject of the interim receiving order, as the interim receiver might mistakenly, but without being negligent, deal with such property. Clause 252(3) currently provides legal protection for the interim receiver if he causes damage in those circumstances. That protection is commonly provided to receivers and does not therefore represent a radical departure from existing practice.

Obvious models for the clause are found in the Insolvency Act 1986. In section 284(4) of that Act, the official receiver is provided with similar protection if he causes loss or damage in seizing or disposing of property that he has reasonable grounds for believing is part of the estate. The same provision is made in section 304(4) of the 1986 Act for the trustee of a bankrupt's estate. Such provisions also apply to receivers appointed in criminal confiscation cases under the Criminal Justice Act 1988 and the Drug Trafficking Act 1994. That provision is replicated in the Bill in clause 61, in part 2, for criminal confiscation cases.

If the protection provided in subsection (3) were removed as the amendment proposes, potential receivers might be deterred from taking on receivership in civil recovery cases. That would have a considerable impact on the director's ability to bring successful cases.

Under the clause, people who own an interest in property that suffers loss or damage when an interim receiver deals mistakenly with it will be able to bring civil action for damages against the interim receiver. Such action may well succeed if the receiver cannot satisfy the court that he had reasonable grounds for believing that the property was covered by the interim receiving order, and even if he shows that, he will still be liable for damages if he acted negligently. That seems a fair measure of protection for those adversely affected, and as I pointed out, the provisions are based

on precedents. If we went any further, we would risk paralysing receivers or deterring them from taking on cases.

Clause 282 deals with compensation for people whose property is subject to an interim receiving order. Clause 252 is about property that has nothing to do with the proceedings but is interfered with accidentally. There is therefore no link between the provisions in the two clauses. If the owner of the property referred to in clause 252(3) wants compensation he will have to bring proceedings against the receiver.

I can tell my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Stinchcombe) that in principle receivers are liable for loss caused by deceit or wilful neglect, and under the clause, negligence is added to those categories. As the hon. Member for Beaconsfield says, there are two separate provisions in the Bill for dealing with such issues, one in clause 282 and one in clause 252. The two are not interchangeable.