Clause 44 - Forfeiture of vehicles

Part of Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 10:45 am ar 25 Ionawr 2005.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of David Ruffley David Ruffley Opposition Whip (Commons) 10:45, 25 Ionawr 2005

The clause deals with the introduction of a possible ruling by the courts for the confiscation of vehicles of those convicted of an offence under section 33 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990.

Legislation on the confiscation of property should be dealt with sensitively and with due regard to the possible effect on the person convicted. Of course someone who is guilty of, and sentenced for, illegal fly-tipping should receive the appropriate sentence. The question is whether the sentence is always proportionate. In cases for which the criminal law provides for confiscation of property, one should consider the circumstances and whether the system makes bad people worse.

I do not think that anyone would have difficulty with the idea of the courts cleaning out the bank accounts of convicted drug dealers and confiscating such property as they had. However, it is to be hoped that any court considering making an order under clause 44 would take account of the likely effects of confiscation on the convicted person's employment prospects and livelihood. I should like to hear what assessment the Minister's Department has made in that respect. Has he considered the case of someone on the minimum wage who is convicted of such an offence? A reasonable fine may be imposed on them, but then a confiscation of property order may be further imposed. Is it enough to say that magistrates will use their discretion when it comes to the forfeiture of vehicles? People could be left out of jobs and money, and families could be affected. 

I wonder what examples the Minister can give from other areas of criminal law of the confiscation of vehicles or the tools of one's trade, albeit those of a convicted person. No one doubts that such people deserve punishment, but sometimes the punishment can have consequences way beyond the censure of the law and proportionate punishment. Can the Minister describe any analogous parts of criminal law to give us comfort that something as potentially serious as the forfeiture of a vehicle will not lead to destitution, unemployment and a disproportionate penalty on the convicted person? I look forward to the Minister sharing some perspectives on analogous parts of the British criminal justice system as it relates to forfeiture of property such as vehicles.