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|Vehicles (Crime) Bill|
These notes refer to the Vehicles (Crime) Bill
VEHICLES (CRIME) BILL
1. These explanatory notes relate to the Vehicles (Crime) Bill as brought from the House of Commons on 31st January 2001. They have been prepared by the Home Office in order to assist the reader of the Bill and to help inform debate on it. They do not form part of the Bill and have not been endorsed by Parliament.
2. The notes need to be read in conjunction with the Bill. They are not, and are not meant to be, a comprehensive description of the Bill. So where a clause or part of a clause does not seem to require any explanation or comment, none is given.
3. The Bill is in four parts:
Part 1, Regulation of Motor Salvage Operators: introduces powers to regulate the motor salvage industry and require motor salvage operators to register with local authorities, keep records and for the police to have right of entry to registered premises without warrant.
Part 2, Regulation of Registration Plate Suppliers: introduces powers to control the supply and issue of number plates. It requires number plate suppliers to register, to make suitable checks before selling a number plate and to keep records of transactions.
Part 3 , Other Provisions Relating to Vehicle Crime: This Part:
Part IV, Supplementary: this Part has a number of standard provisions relating to financial arrangements, consequential amendments and orders and regulations as a result of the Bill.
Explanatory Notes for the Vehicles (Crime) Bill
4. The explanatory notes are divided into parts reflecting the structure of the Bill. The background and summary of each subject area are detailed, followed by the commentary on clauses in number order.
SUMMARY AND BACKGROUND
Part I: The Motor Salvage Industry
5. A consultation paper with proposals to regulate the salvage industry was issued on 27 April 2000. The consultation paper put forward three options:
6. Twenty-six organisations replied to the consultation document. Of these twenty-two endorsed the proposal for statutory regulation. As a result of the consultation the Home Secretary decided that statutory regulation was the preferred way forward.
7. Its purpose is to bring the motor salvage industry within a framework of statutory regulation so as to reduce the opportunity for disposing of stolen vehicles. Within the salvage industry there are opportunities:
8. The scale of this problem can only be estimated. However, official statistics (Criminal Statistics: England and Wales, 1997) indicate that about 70% of stolen vehicles are recovered. The problem is measured by those vehicles which are not recovered. The Motor Salvage Regulation Task Force of the Home Office Vehicle Crime Reduction Action Team estimates that 25% of these non-recovered vehicles are used for "ringing" and 40% are broken for their parts. In addition, a further 20% are thought to be the subject of insurance fraud.
9. Therefore, up to 78,000 vehicles every year are likely to have been used for "ringing" or broken up for parts. To this figure can be added a proportion of insurance frauds, estimated at up to 12,000 vehicles.
10. By regulating this industry it is believed that about 30,000 vehicle thefts and 6,000 fraudulent insurance claims could be avoided per year.
Part II: Regulation of Registration Plate Suppliers
11. The main objective of this Part of the Bill is to regulate the supply of number plates in order to combat vehicle "ringing" and vehicle cloning (using the identity of an existing vehicle to disguise another).
12. Many criminals using vehicles to carry out criminal activity use false plates to avoid detection. Such activity can range from terrorism, the use of getaway cars by armed robbers to burglars using vehicles to transport stolen goods.
13. At present there is no control over the supply of plates and suppliers are not required before supplying a set of plates to check the identity of purchasers or their entitlement to use plates containing particular registration marks. The objective of this Part is to ensure that plates are issued only to those with a genuine reason for having the plates and that they are issued for the correct vehicle.
14. This Part provides for the registration of persons carrying on the business of a number plate supplier; the charging of a registration fee; a power by which the Court may remove or suspend registrations; and a power to prosecute for contravention of the statutory requirements. It also allows the Secretary of State to remove from the register persons whom he believes to have ceased trading.
15. It also creates a number of new offences: making a false application for registration as a number plate supplier, making such an application while suspended from registration by an order of the court, selling plates which purport to be registration plates but are not, knowingly supplying plates to a person who is in the business of selling fake registration plates, and knowingly supplying components or plates to an unregistered person other than an exempt person.
Part III: Other Provisions Relating to Vehicle Crime
16. The incentives for criminals arise if they can obtain a low-value accident-damaged or scrapped vehicle (salvage) and subsequently sell a similar stolen vehicle to an unsuspecting purchaser at a much higher price. One of the main objectives of this Part of the Bill is to make it harder for such criminals to obtain new registration documents for "rung" vehicles. Additionally, this Part provides enabling powers for the introduction of vehicle identification features on number plates. This will link number plates to the vehicles to which they have been assigned, thereby making it more difficult to switch plates between vehicles. It will also make plates more secure and more difficult to duplicate for illegal purposes.
17. Swapping vehicle identity involves transferring vehicle-specific identification plates from the damaged vehicle to the stolen vehicle - and the introduction of vehicle identity checks is intended to detect and deter this crime (and, in turn, vehicle ringing).
18. One of the key issues to the successful implementation of vehicle identity checks is the mechanism for ensuring that vehicles are submitted for test. This will be achieved as a result of a combination of factors:
19. The risk of "ringing" affects a wide range of vehicles. Consequently, although the initial objective is to apply the requirement for vehicle identity checks to higher value, more recently registered, vehicle salvage, the requirement could also be extended to other vehicle classes.
20. This Part of Bill also requires scrap metal dealers to notify specified persons when a motor vehicle is destroyed. This will help to prevent stolen cars being issued with new registration documents by the DVLA, as the DVLA will have been notified of the original car's destruction.
21. Under section 127 of the Magistrates' Courts Act 1980, magistrates' courts cannot try a summary offence unless proceedings are started within six months of the day when the offence was committed. The commencement of proceedings for taking a mechanically propelled vehicle without authority is covered by this time limit. Advances in forensic science (particularly fingerprints and DNA) mean that it is possible reliably to match an offender with a crime after the prosecution time limit has expired. This Part of the Bill aims to extend the time limit. This will mean that proceedings, relating to the unauthorised taking of a vehicle, can be commenced at any time within six months from the date on which sufficient evidence to bring a prosecution came to the knowledge of the prosecutor, subject to a general time limit of three years from the day the offence was committed.
22. Finally, this Part of the Bill allows the re-circulation of money received from speed and red light camera enforcement to fund certain costs relating to speed cameras and it gives the police bulk access to a motor insurance industry database which will allow them to identify more easily people driving without insurance.
Part IV: Supplementary
23. This Part of the Bill has a number of standard provisions relating to financial arrangements, consequential amendments and orders and regulations as a result of the Bill.
COMMENTARY ON CLAUSES
Part I: The Motor Salvage Industry
Clauses 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 13: Registration
24. The intention of these clauses is to require the motor salvage industry to register with the local authority. A person, including a body corporate, who carries on a business in the motor salvage industry will be required to register with the local authority. Local authorities will be responsible for maintaining registers, which will contain details to be prescribed. Such details will include the name of the person and the address of the premises where the business is conducted. A fee will be paid to the local authority on applying for registration, with the local authority being responsible for determining that fee, based on the recovery of the costs of administrating the registration scheme. Registration will lapse after three years, although it can be renewed.
25. The registration authority will have the discretion to decide whether a person is "fit and proper" to carry on business in the motor salvage industry. If it decides that the person is not "fit and proper", it can refuse or cancel registration. If registration is refused or cancelled on this ground, the local authority need not consider a further application for registration from the applicant for a period of three years. If a local authority decides that a director, or any other person responsible for the control and management of a body corporate or a limited liability partnership is not "fit and proper", it can refuse or cancel the registration, or refuse to renew the registration, of that body corporate or limited liability partnership.
26. A person is entitled to make representations to the local authority where that local authority is minded to refuse an application for registration or the renewal of a registration, or where the local authority is minded to cancel a registration. If the local authority proceeds with the refusal or cancellation, the person may appeal to the magistrates' court.
Clauses 7 and 8: Keeping of Records etc.
27. Any registered motor salvage operator must maintain records to be specified in regulations. Regulations will require records to be kept of all vehicles entering the motor salvage industry, and such records will need to be kept for three years. Further, registered motor salvage operators will be obliged to notify the destruction of any vehicles to such persons as are specified (the main intended recipient of the notification being the DVLA).
28. If a person does not maintain appropriate records or make these notifications, this will be an offence and they will be liable on summary conviction to a fine.
Clauses 9, 10, 11 and 12: Supplementary Provisions and Offences
29. Clause 9 gives the police powers of entry to registered premises without warrant. For entry to unregistered premises, or entry to registered premises where entry has previously been refused, a warrant issued by a justice of the peace can be obtained to secure entry with the use of force if necessary.
30. A police constable may inspect any motor vehicles or salvaged parts kept at the premises and inspect or copy any records which the motor salvage operator is required to keep.
31. Clause 10 makes it an offence knowingly or recklessly to supply materially false information in an application for registration as a salvage operator. It allows a higher penalty for such an offence where the offender has previously been refused registration or had his registration cancelled.
32. Clause 11 requires the person registered or applying to be registered to notify the local authority of any changes affecting the accuracy of information provided. Failure to do so will be an offence, although there is a due diligence defence.
33. Clause 12 makes it an offence for a person to give a false name or address when selling a motor vehicle to a motor salvage operator.
Clauses 14, 15 and 16: General
34. Clause 14 provides for the police or local authorities to bring prosecutions. Prosecutions by anyone else must have the consent of the Attorney General. Clause 15 allows the Secretary of State to amend or repeal any private or local Act if it appears to conflict with this Act.
35. Clause 16 defines the terms used in this Part of the Bill including what constitutes carrying on a business as a motor salvage operator in the area of a local authority and a motor salvage yard.
Part II: Regulation of Registration Plate Suppliers
Clauses 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22 and 23: Requirement of registration of registration plate suppliers
36. Clause 17 requires any person who carries on a business as a registration (number) plate supplier in England or Wales, and is not an exempt person, to be registered by the Secretary of State. It would be an offence to conduct business as a registration plate supplier without being registered.
37. Clause 18 requires the Secretary of State (in practice the DVLA) to establish and maintain a register of registration plate suppliers containing particulars to be prescribed by regulation. The Secretary of State may disclose information from the register and may charge a fee for such disclosure.
38. Clause 19 provides for applications for registration and empowers the Secretary of State to charge a fee to recover reasonable costs.
39. Clauses 20 to 23 provide for the removal or suspension of a registration by a court where a person has been convicted of an offence under this Part and for the cancellation of a registration where the Secretary of State is satisfied that business as a registration plate supplier has ceased for a period of at least 28 days. A registration plate supplier can appeal, within 21 days, against a decision by the Secretary of State to cancel their registration.
Clauses 24 and 25: Keeping of Records etc.
40. Clause 24 enables the making of regulations to provide for the keeping of records by registration plate suppliers. It will be an offence to fail to keep records in the prescribed manner, subject to a due diligence defence.
41. Clause 25 requires registration plate suppliers to obtain prescribed information from prospective purchasers. It will be an offence to fail to obtain this information before completing a sale, subject to a due diligence defence.
Clauses 26, 27, 28 and 29: Supplementary Provisions and Offences
42. Clause 26 provides the right of entry and inspection for a police officer or a person appointed by a local authority at the premises of a registered business. A police officer or a person appointed by a local authority may enter the premises of an unregistered business provided that a justice of the peace has issued a warrant. Reasonable force may be used in pursuance of the warrant.
43. Clause 27 requires a registered person to provide notification of any changes to details held on the register and notification of the cessation of business as a registration plate supplier within 28 days. Failure to do so will be an offence, subject to a due diligence defence. Clause 28 makes it an offence to sell a defective plate or one where the registration mark is misrepresented. The prosecutor would have to show that the supplier knew of the defect or was reckless with regard to the nature of the plate.
44. Clause 29 makes it an offence to supply a plate to an unregistered person, other than an exempt person, who is carrying on business as a registration plate supplier.
Clauses 30 and 31
45. The police or local authorities may bring prosecutions. Prosecutions by anyone else must have the consent of the Attorney General. Prosecutions may be brought against corporate bodies and against senior employees of those bodies. Clause 31 defines the terms used in this Part of the Bill, including the terms "carrying on a business as a registration plate supplier" and "registration plate".
Part III: Other Provisions Relating to Vehicle Crime
Clause 32: Vehicle Licence Applications
46. Clause 32 amends section 7 of the Vehicle Excise and Registration Act 1994 to enable the Secretary of State to specify documents and other evidence which must be produced in support of a vehicle excise licence application. Corresponding amendments are also made to section 22 of the 1994 Act in relation to nil licences.
Clause 33: Vehicle Identity Checks
47. The main intention of this clause is to require a compulsory vehicle identity check of any 'written-off', scrapped vehicle, prior to the issue of replacement registration documents to the vehicle keeper.
48. The purpose of the vehicle identity check is to help prevent a criminal from swapping the identity of a vehicle he has stolen with that of a written-off or scrapped vehicle ("ringing").
49. Clause 33 inserts new regulation-making powers after section 22 of the Vehicle Excise and Registration Act 1994 (registration regulations). They ensure that the Secretary of State:
50. Clause 33 also ensures that the vehicle identity check regime can apply to the issue of new registration documents in place of surrendered documents.
Clause 34: Registration Plates
51. This clause provides for the inclusion of additional information to be held on registration plates. It provides a power to make regulations to prescribe the form and manner in which such information may be held. The purpose of this provision is to enable the Secretary of State to prescribe that registration plates should contain information that would link the registration plate to the vehicle for which it is intended, making the registration plate more secure and difficult to copy.
Clauses 35 and 36: Information Requirements
52. Clause 35 enables regulations to be made obliging scrap metal dealers registered under the Scrap Metal Dealers Act 1964 to notify specified persons if they finally dispose of a motor vehicle. The intention is to ensure that the DVLA are notified of such destructions, with the aim of preventing the re-registration of a stolen motor vehicle which has been given the destroyed motor vehicle's identity. The provision mirrors the provision in clause 8 applying to registered motor salvage operators.
53. Clause 36 enables the police to have bulk access to an insurance industry database which will help them to detect people driving without insurance.
Clauses 37 and 38: Miscellaneous
54. Clause 37 amends the Theft Act 1968 to introduce a time limit that enables proceedings relating to the unauthorised taking of a mechanically propelled vehicle to be commenced at any time within six months from the date on which sufficient evidence to bring a prosecution came to the knowledge of the prosecutor. It is subject to a general time limit to bring a prosecution within three years of the offence taking place.
55. Clause 38 enables the Secretary of State to fund the expenditure of public authorities relating to specific offences in connection with speeding and traffic signals. In particular the clause is intended to enable the Secretary of State to use receipts from fines imposed by criminal courts for the relevant offences, and other sums paid to magistrates' courts, to fund particular schemes such as the installation and operation of speed cameras. The Secretary of State will be able to make payments to bodies responsible for the prevention, detection and prosecution of the relevant offences.
Part IV: Supplementary
Clauses 39, 40, 41, 42, and 43: General
56. Clause 39 - if an offence under this Bill, committed by a body corporate, is proved to have been committed with the consent of, or is attributed to, a director, manager, secretary or other relevant officer, this person may be prosecuted, as well as the body corporate.
57. Clause 40 relates to the service of documents required or authorised by the Bill, and enables documents to be served by electronic means where appropriate. Clause 41 states that any order making powers or regulations as a result of this Bill will be exercisable by statutory instrument. All statutory instruments made under the Bill apart from commencement orders are to be subject to the negative resolution procedure.
58. Clause 42 ensures that sums received by a Minister of the Crown in consequence of the Bill are paid into the Consolidated Fund. Clause 43 refers to the Schedule attached to the Bill which lists the consequential amendments to other Acts as a result of this Bill.
Clauses 44, 45, and 46: Final
59. The substantive provisions of this Bill will come into effect when it is decided appropriate by the Secretary of State who will issue a commencement order. Different dates might be considered appropriate for different parts of the Bill or in respect of different geographical areas.
60. Parts I, II, and clauses 35, 37 and 38 extend to England and Wales only. Clause 36 extends to England and Wales and Scotland. Clauses 32 to 34 inclusive extend to England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
61. The Schedule provides details of the consequential amendments to other legislation as a result of this Bill.
FINANCIAL EFFECTS OF THE BILL
62. The figures set out below depend on a range of assumptions, many of which cannot be easily quantified. For these reasons they are estimates only. All figures are full year figures at current prices unless otherwise indicated. Costs for Government Departments arising from the Bill will be met from Departmental Expenditure Limits. The total cost of the Bill to business is estimated to be in the range of £13-20 million in the first year and £11-18 million annually thereafter.
Part 1: The Motor Salvage Industry
63. The estimated total registration cost to the industry sector is £65,000 in the first year and thereafter at three-yearly intervals. This assumes that about 3,000 companies are likely to be required to register as a result of the legislation.
64. The cost to the motor salvage industry of checking the identity of vehicles and recording the details is estimated at a maximum of £285,000 per annum. This assumes:
The cost of assisting with enquiries is estimated to be no more than £110,000 per annum.
65. Non-recurring costs are estimated to be up to £115,000. This makes allowance for:
66. Enforcement would be the responsibility of the police. As this would form part of their routine investigations they would absorb the cost, which the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) estimates at around £110,000 per annum. The annual cost of additional prosecutions to the Lord Chancellor's Department (including legal aid cost) would be £16,612, assuming 20 prosecutions per annum, and £45,000, assuming 150 appeals per annum: a total of £61,612. The annual cost to the Crown Prosecution Service would be £9,555, assuming 50 prosecutions per annum.
|© Parliamentary copyright 2001||Prepared: 1 February 2001|