Security-focused legislation drafted with a view towards providing stronger powers for disrupting extremists and tackling corruption, money laundering and tax evasion was announced as part of Her Majesty The Queen’s Speech delivered to Parliament on Wednesday 18 May.
The Counter-Extremism and Safeguarding Bill will be brought forward to ‘prevent radicalisation, tackle extremism in all its forms and promote community integration’. It’s aimed squarely at protecting the public against the most dangerous extremists and ensuring that the Government and law enforcement agencies have a full range of powers to hand for dealing with the matter.
Following consultation, it’s planned that the Bill is going to introduce a new civil order regime to restrict extremist activity, invoke stronger powers for the Disclosure and Barring Service and also close present loopholes such that Ofcom can continue to protect consumers who watch Internet-streamed television content delivered from outside the European Union.
In addition, the Counter-Extremism and Safeguarding Bill will consult on powers to enable Government to intervene where councils fail to tackle episodes of extremism.
For its part, the Criminal Finances Bill legislates to tackle corruption, money laundering and tax evasion, in turn allowing the Government to recoup more criminal assets by reforming the law on the proceeds of crime (including provisions for strengthening enforcement powers and protecting the public).
In parallel, this Bill also witnesses the implementation of a “more effective regime” designed to support the reporting of suspicious financial activity, making it easier to seize illicit funds and improve co-ordination between the public and private sectors in order to tackle criminal financial behaviour.
The Bill enshrines a criminal offence for corporations who fail to prevent their staff from facilitating tax evasion. It also boosts operation of the suspicious activity reports regime in a bid to encourage better use of public and private sector resources against the highest threats. The aim is to target entities carrying out money laundering instead of individual transactions (and also provide the National Crime Agency with new powers).
On top of that, the Criminal Finances Bill seeks to upgrade the ability of law enforcement agencies and the courts alike when it comes to recovering criminal assets more effectively, particularly so in cases such as those linked to grand corruption.
At present, the authorities recover criminal assets by confiscation under Part 2 of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002, and by civil recovery under Part 5 of that same Act. Confiscation applies where a defendant has been convicted of an offence from which they’ve obtained a benefit and obliges them to pay a sum of money to the court. Civil recovery doesn’t have to involve any criminal conviction, but does require specified property to be forfeited to the State whereupon that property is (or at least represents) the proceeds of proven criminal conduct.
Of course, it’s only recently that confiscation law was subject to significant amendment by dint of the Serious Crime Act 2015. Perhaps the Criminal Finances Bill will now concentrate on amendments to civil recovery law. As ever, only time will tell.