HC Deb 11 May 2001 vol 368 c417W
Mr. Bailey

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what measures the Government will take to ensure that criminals do not profit financially from past crimes. [160853]

Mr. Charles Clarke

Under the Proceeds of Crime Bill, for which the Government published draft clauses on 5 March (Cm 5066), a court in England or Wales which is considering whether to make a confiscation order against a convicted defendant who has a criminal lifestyle will be required to assume that any property held by the defendant at any time after conviction, and any property transferred to the defendant during the six years preceding the commencement of the criminal proceedings, was obtained by him as a result of criminal conduct; and that any expenditure incurred by him during the six year period was met from property obtained as a result of such conduct. The court will however be prohibited from making the assumption if it is shown to be incorrect or if making it would give rise to a serious risk of injustice.

A defendant will be considered to have a criminal lifestyle if convicted of drug trafficking, money laundering or any other of a list of offences to be specified in regulations; or if the offence constitutes conduct forming part of a course of criminal activity (this term is defined in draft clause 69); or if the offence was committed over a period of six months or more.

These provisions represent an extension of the circumstances in which such assumptions may be made under existing legislation.

The Bill will also empower the Director of the proposed new Criminal Assets Recovery Agency, which the Bill will create, to seek civil recovery in the High Court of property which has been obtained through unlawful conduct (Part V of the draft Bill). Civil recovery will apply to property obtained through conduct committed before the Bill comes into force. The Government are not minded to insert a limit on the period after the conduct during which property will be recoverable, but are considering this point carefully.

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