HC Deb 21 January 1986 vol 90 cc100-1W
Mr. Hirst

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he intends to introduce further measures aimed at the seizure and confiscation of the profits of drug trafficking crimes in Scotland in the light of the measures proposed by the Home Secretary in the Drug Trafficking Offences Bill.

Mr. Rifkind

Like my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, I am determined that the courts should have all the powers they need to deal effectively with the crimes of drug traffickers. Scottish courts have already been given new powers, in the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Act 1985, which contribute to this end: in particular, Scottish courts passing custodial sentences on indictment for such crimes must now have regard to the profits made and impose a fine as well as a custodial sentence unless satisfied that it would be inappropriate to do so. If such an offender is sentenced to imprisonment because that fine has not been paid, he will serve that additional period of imprisonment consecutively.

The measures proposed by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary in the Drug Trafficking Offences Bill go beyond this, and I intend at the earliest opportunity to introduce equivalent legislation suitable for operation in Scotland. It would not be practicable simply to extend the Bill to Scotland, as there are distinctive features of our legal system which require to be taken into account in preparing a suitable legislative scheme for Scotland relating to forfeiture of proceeds of drug trafficking. For example, while the use of receivers and of charging orders in the enforcement procedures under the Home Office Bill builds on established English law, both would require novel provisions in Scotland.

The Scottish Law Commission, which has carried out some preliminary work on the general question of forfeiture in response to a reference which my predecessor gave them in 1985, agree with the view that extension to Scotland of the Home Office Bill is not a viable option. Moreover, this work has shown that the commission's normal process of consideration of and consultation on separate Scottish legislation could not be completed in time to allow for legislation in the present Parliament. Given the urgent need for legislation on the forfeiture of the proceeds of drug trafficking, I think it would be inappropriate to delay legislation on this particular issue to allow for completion of that reference. After consultation with the commission, I have suspended the reference meantime and have instructed my officials to set in hand the preparation of legislation on that topic.

I am most grateful to the commission both for its preliminary work and for its kind offer of advice on problems that may arise in relation to the preparation of such a Bill.

Meanwhile, provision will be made in the Home Office Bill to enable orders of the courts in England and Wales made under the Bill to be enforceable in Scotland through the Scottish courts. This will ensure that Scotland does not become a haven for the assets of drug traffickers within the jurisdiction of the English courts.

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