Clause 289 - Prior approval

Part of Proceeds of Crime Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 6:00 pm ar 8 Ionawr 2002.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve Shadow Minister (Home Affairs) 6:00, 8 Ionawr 2002

The amendment relates to powers in respect of prior approval, which we touched on when we discussed clause 288. Then, the Minister explained that the powers in that clause could be exercised only with the prior approval of a judicial officer or, if that was not practicable, the approval of a senior officer. Failing that, there are certain other provisions relating to reports on the exercise of powers.

The amendment would require the appropriate approval to be given by no one other than a judicial officer. Thus amendment No. 452 would delete the words

''unless . . . it is not practicable to obtain that approval before exercising the power.''

Amendment No. 408 would restrict the power of giving approval to a judicial officer, and amendment No. 409 would delete the definition of a senior officer and the reference to the reporting procedure that would apply if approval were not given by a judicial officer.

I do not want to dwell on these issues because we have touched on them already, but we would do well to consider one point. If the searches are carried out in the planned way envisaged in the rules and guidelines, one would expect there to be no difficulty in obtaining the approval of a judicial officer, because the searches would be systematic, targeted and intelligence-led, rather than random. If that is the case, why should provision be made for an emergency procedure?

I ask that particularly because, as has already been said, in exercising pre-existing powers to search individuals or premises, the police or customs officers may come across money that they believe falls within the appropriate category. In those circumstances, one would expect them to be able to lay their hands on that money, at least temporarily, until they could obtain the necessary approval of a judicial officer, because the original intention in seizing the money was to investigate a crime. Therefore I question whether the power needs to be so widely drafted. If the Minister is right, there will not be many circumstances in which it is necessary to exercise the power where there is not ample opportunity for a judicial officer to give the appropriate authority.