1.These instruments would bring three revised codes of practice, and one new Code on Listed Assets, into operation on 31 January 2018 to reflect changes made by the Criminal Finances Act 2017 (“the 2017 Act”) to the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002. The revised codes of practice concern the use of search, seizure and detention powers in confiscation, cash recovery and investigation. The new Code sets out the procedure for a new search power available for certain items of personal or moveable property (such as art or jewels). Amendments made by the 2017 Act include the introduction of unexplained wealth orders, which require someone to provide a statement to explain the origin of assets that appear to be disproportionate to their known income and may be associated with serious crime. The 2017 Act also widens the use of disclosure orders, which require any person who is considered to have relevant information to answer questions, provide information, or produce documents for investigations into money laundering.
2.The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has laid these draft Regulations with an Explanatory Memorandum (EM). Among other things, the Regulations propose a 20% increase in the fees charged by local planning authorities for planning applications: planning application fees were last increased in 2012. DCLG says that, in a report published in December 2016, the Local Government Association found that over three years a £450 million shortfall in fee-derived resources going into planning had been subsidised by local taxpayers from their local taxes. While DCLG states that the Government accepted the evidence presented, it presents none of this evidence in the EM and no detail to support the figure of £450 million.
3.It aims to reduce this funding gap through the 20% increase, which was announced in the Housing White paper in February of this year. DCLG notes that it is estimated that the fee increase will mean that some £80 million additional income will be raised annually, and that authorities’ costs will overall still be higher than the fee charged. While, as DCLG says in the EM, the overall impact will be to make additional ring-fenced resources available to planning departments, it seems clear that some level of subsidy from local taxpayers will also still be needed.
4.Remuneration for criminal litigation services in the Crown Court is paid as a “graduated fee”. That fee is affected by the complexity of the case and the primary factor in determining that is the number of Pages of Prosecution Evidence (PPE) served. PPE is currently subject to a cut-off threshold of 10,000 pages, after which the claims of legal aid providers are treated as a “special preparation”, that is, separately assessed for payment by the Legal Aid Agency. The Costs Judge’s decision in R v Napper (Costs) broadened the circumstances in which electronic evidence could be paid as PPE beyond the Government’s original policy intention. The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) notes in the Explanatory Memorandum that since that decision, despite the overall caseload falling, average payments under the graduated fee scheme have risen sharply. Rather than changing the treatment of electronic evidence, these Regulations amend the cut-off for the graduated fee scheme to cases with 6,000 pages. This will increase the number of cases being considered under the “special preparation” provisions to about 2% of the total caseload. Over 1,000 respondents raised objections during the consultation exercise stating that cases with more than 6,000 pages would be paid between 13% and 34% less than they are currently. This view seems to be supported by the MoJ’s estimate that the change will result in gross savings of £26–36 million per year in payments to legal aid providers. The Legal Aid Agency intends to employ up to three additional full-time staff to assess the cases with 6,000–10,000 PPE and states that in consequence they do not anticipate any significant delays in providers getting paid.
1 See also Draft Criminal Finances Act 2017 (Consequential Amendment) Regulations 2018, Draft Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (Investigative Powers of Prosecutors: Code of Practice) Order 2018, and Draft Terrorism Act 2000 (Code of Practice for Authorised Officers) Order 2018.
2 Local Government Association, Building our homes, communities and future : [accessed 7 November 2017]
3 Department for Communities and Local Government, Fixing our broken housing market, Cm 9352, February 2017, para 2.15: [accessed 7 November 2017]. This foresaw increasing fees in July 2017.
4 R v Napper (Costs) (2014) 5 LR 947.