Clause 295 - Interest

Part of Proceeds of Crime Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 11:00 am ar 10 Ionawr 2002.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Bob Ainsworth Bob Ainsworth The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department 11:00, 10 Ionawr 2002

I shall apply my non-lawyer's untidy mind to the hon. Gentleman's question.

The amendment would require the police and Customs to pay all cash seized under clause 293 into an interest-bearing account. That would result in the original cash being lost in every case. In most circumstances, the cash will be paid into an interest-bearing account, thus accruing interest as compensation for cash that is released and not ultimately forfeited. The Government recognise that that is an important protective measure. However, we do not accept that the provision should override the powers provided under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, which allows material that has evidential value to be retained for an investigation or trial.

The same principle should apply if cash is needed as evidence in detention and forfeiture proceedings brought under chapter 3 of part 5. It is not difficult to foresee circumstances in which seized cash will have evidential value. In such cases, the cash will need to be retained for that purpose. Indeed, PACE requires as much for material seized under that legislation. The most obvious example is one in which traces of drugs—or fingerprints, as the hon. Gentleman said—are present on the cash. In such circumstances, the police and Customs will need to retain the cash as evidence.

The cash may be needed as evidence in proceedings under the scheme. For example, the amount and the form of the cash may be disputed. In such circumstances, the court may require the cash as evidence on that point. The same approach is taken in the equivalent scheme for terrorist cash in paragraph 4(3) of schedule 1 to the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001.

If the cash is not ultimately forfeited, compensation to the value of the lost interest—and more, in exceptional circumstances—will still be available under clause 300. The hon. Gentleman may have misunderstood that. I have tabled a Government amendment to clause 300 to make that explicit. There is a safeguard for the cash, even if it is not paid into an interest-bearing account because it is retained as evidence. In light of that, I hope that he will withdraw the amendment.