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The noble Lord said: Clause 18 deals with money laundering and makes it an offence for someone--for example, a banker--to help terrorists to retain or control money. However, it was suggested to me that the wording of the clause does not make it an offence for the terrorist who launders the money, only for the banker or other person who handles it. Of course, I realise that the terrorist treasurer may well be guilty and presumably will be guilty under Clauses 16 or 17. However, it struck me as odd that only the banker would be charged, for example, in respect of an agreement to smuggle money out of the jurisdiction for a terrorist purpose. Is that a correct reading and is that what is intended? I beg to move.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: We well appreciate the spirit in which the amendment is moved. It appears to emphasise that a person should not enter into an arrangement to facilitate the retention or control "by himself" of terrorist property. I agree that that should not be permitted. However, as we see it, we do not believe that the amendment is required because that matter is already covered by the offence as it stands.
Clause 18 deals with arrangements by which the retention or control of terrorist property by one person is facilitated by another. The clause provides that a person commits an offence if he enters into or becomes concerned in such an arrangement. It does not specify
Therefore, both the person who facilitates retention or control and the person whose retention or control is facilitated commit the same offence. That is because both have entered into, or have become involved in, the arrangement. I trust that with that explanation the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw the amendment.
Lord Cope of Berkeley: Clearly the Minister wishes the same things as I do, which does not surprise me for a moment. However, I am still not entirely satisfied that the wording is adequate. I shall not pursue the matter today, but my point is that the clause states that:
Lord Cope of Berkeley: I believe that it is the use of the words "another person" which caused the interest in this issue. However, I do not wish to pursue the matter at the moment. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Lord Bach: The Government do not accept the need for the amendment and I shall try to explain why in a few words. I believe that there are three other amendments in this group and perhaps the noble Lord will want to speak to them in due course. Therefore, perhaps I may deal, first, with the amendment that he has moved.
Clause 19 requires the reporting of belief or suspicion that someone has committed one of the terrorist property offences set out in Clauses 15 to 18. As the noble Lord said, Amendment No. 39B would require the reporting of suspicion that someone is likely to commit such an offence. That would broaden quite considerably the scope of the requirement--too far, in our view. The equivalent provisions in the Prevention of Terrorism Act 1989, the Drug Trafficking Act 1994 and the Criminal Justice Act 1988 already produce a steady flow of information on suspicious transactions, some of which produce useful leads. The amendment is presumably intended to produce more. But we do not believe it is necessary to extend the scope of the offence in this way.
In many cases a suspicion that someone will commit a funding offence will lead inevitably to a suspicion that he has committed one. For example, if I suspect that someone is going to "provide money or other property" for the purposes of terrorism--that is, Clause 15(3)--I presumably already suspect that he possesses money or other property for the purposes of terrorism. So I am not sure, in effect, how much difference the amendment would make in practice.
To the extent that there is any difference, however, there is of course nothing stopping someone who wants to report suspicion of a potential funding offence, as opposed to suspicion of an actual offence. The "permission to disclose" provision in Clause 20 adequately covers this.
But a statutory requirement to disclose is a serious measure and we would not seek to extend it lightly. We think it right that the requirement should apply to more substantive suspicions that someone has committed an offence rather than that he is likely to commit such an offence.
Lord Glentoran: I wish now to speak to Amendments Nos. 41A, 41B and 41C. It seems that it was a reasonable defence if the person concerned believed that his employer would ensure that a disclosure was made in this situation. I do not think that needs very much explanation. If he has told his employer what he believes and he assumes that his employer is going to tell the necessary authorities, that seems to us fair and reasonable.
Amendments Nos. 41B and 41C seek to take out "thing" and insert "money or other property". "Thing" is a very undescriptive word. Really what is being spoken of in this Bill is money or property, and I ask the noble Lord to consider that.
Lord Bach: I shall deal first with Amendment No. 41A. Clause 19(4) makes provision for persons in employment by allowing them to make the disclosure to their employer rather than directly to the police. Amendment No. 41A proposes that someone seeking to rely on this option should also have to prove that he reasonably believed his employer would pass the suspicion on to the police.
There is no need for such provision on the face of the Bill because the defence set out in subsection (4) only applies where the employer has established a procedure for the making of disclosures. So in order to rely on the defence, the employee would have to prove that he had followed the established procedure. The procedure could only reasonably be regarded as an "established" procedure if it indeed had the effect that employees reasonably believed it would ensure eventual disclosure to the police. So we think that that point is covered in the Bill as currently drafted.
I deal with the two remaining amendments in the following way. Clause 19(7) is an extra-territorial gloss on subsection (1) and ensures that disclosure is to be made even if the suspected offence involves a "thing" and takes place overseas. I am advised that, as a matter of statutory drafting, it would not produce the right result to refer instead, as the noble Lord proposes, to "money or other property". That is principally because the extra-territorial question arises only in relation to "things". With money, for example, it is possible to take possession without any physical thing changing hands.
Lord Glentoran: I thank the Minister for that explanation. Certainly with regard to the last two amendments, I accept the advice on statutory drafting in relation to matters overseas. I hope that we are secure in relation to the employer/employee relationship. but for the moment I accept the noble Lord's advice and beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
The noble Lord said: This is, I believe, an amendment of some importance because it concerns the freedom of the press. Let us assume that a journalist wants to interview someone who is alleged to be a major donor to a proscribed terrorist organisation. That organisation could be one that operates in the United Kingdom; it could be one whose operations are entirely outside the United Kingdom but which has been proscribed.
The journalist wishes to establish whether those allegations are true or not. During the course of the interview, again let us assume that the alleged donor makes statements which make the journalist believe that the allegations are true. He may make them on the record or off the record but the alleged donor admits that he is indeed a donor. Under Clause 19 as it stands that journalist will commit an offence if he does not tell a police constable about the interview as soon as reasonably possible. I should have thought that in that context "as soon as reasonably possible" must mean no later than the point at which the journalist gets back to the office or gets home, has access to a telephone and can pick up that telephone up and contact the police.
The effect of Clause 19 on a journalist in those circumstances is obvious. No journalist will interview someone on the basis that he will report anything that he has learned at the interview to the police. No one will speak to a journalist if he knows that anything said to a journalist must be reported by law immediately to the police. The effect is to restrict freedom of speech.
The Government may well take the view that it would be better if an interview of that kind did not take place. But that, of course, is not the test. It is not whether the Government think it better or not. The true question is whether the obligation to report the interview to the police is something which is necessary in a democratic society. I believe that in the great majority of cases the answer to that question will be no.
I accept that there could possibly be cases where the danger from a terrorist organisation is so acute that the ordinary rules do not apply. That, indeed, is why we included in Amendment No. 141 subsections (3B) and (3C). Subsection (3C) is modelled on the power to derogate from convention rights under the Human Rights Act, which itself is modelled on the provisions as to derogation in the European Convention on Human Rights. That would make it possible in extreme circumstances to suspend the exemption for journalists.
In general, however, it is very difficult to see what damage is likely to be caused if journalists are exempted from Clause 19. Indeed, investigative journalism may even be helpful to the Government. This is an entirely different category from the case where banks may suspect money laundering on behalf of terrorists where, clearly, it is in the public interest that the banks should be required to disclose their suspicions to the Government. In practice, Clause 19 will not lead to journalists providing any useful information whatever to the police. It will simply reduce the flow of information to the journalists.
Clause 19 imposes an unjustifiable restriction on the freedom of the press, which is an essential element in freedom of speech and is recognised by the Human Rights Act as a matter of particular importance.
I recognise that Clause 19 is based on an existing section in the Prevention of Terrorism Act that does not include a special defence for journalists. In replacing the Prevention of Terrorism Act there is no presumption that Clause 19 should be identical to the corresponding section in the Prevention of Terrorism Act. Therefore, I suggest that it is proper and desirable that Clause 19 should be amended in this way. I beg to move.
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