Finance Bill Tracking Service 2007 | Budget 2007 | Budget Notes

BN78 Review of powers and safeguards: new criminal investigation powers & safeguards

Who is likely to be affected?

1   Individuals and businesses involved in criminal investigations by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

General description of the measure

2   Legislation will be introduced in Finance Bill 2007 to provide consistent powers and safeguards for all HMRC's criminal investigations and repeal existing powers that will no longer be needed.

3   For England, Wales and Northern Ireland certain existing powers will be applied consistently to HMRC's criminal investigations. For Scotland the legislation introduces some new powers and safeguards and applies some existing ones more consistently to investigations under Scottish law.

Operative date

4   The changes will come into force at a date to be set by a Treasury Order to be laid before the House of Commons. This is likely to be before the end of 2007.

Current law and proposed revisions

5   Section 114 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE) allows the Treasury to make an order applying provisions of that Act to investigations and persons detained by Customs & Excise. Such an order was made in 1985 (The Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (Application to Customs and Excise) Order 1985 – SI 1985/1800). PACE applies in England and Wales and similar legislation applies in Northern Ireland.

6   The measure will amend section 114 of PACE, and the equivalent in Northern Ireland, so provisions of PACE can be applied to HMRC. This will allow an order to be made so that the appropriate PACE powers and safeguards will apply on a consistent basis to the criminal investigations HMRC carries out in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

7   The appropriate powers and safeguards in PACE are those already applied to criminal investigations by HMRC concerning ex-Customs and Excise matters and include:

•   applying to magistrates and judges for search warrants.

•   applying to judges for court orders to obtain evidence from people other than the suspect.

•   arresting suspects, search upon arrest and questioning.

8   For Scotland the measure will introduce new and consistent powers and safeguards for HMRC's criminal investigations including:

•   applying to sheriffs for search warrants.

•   applying to sheriffs for court orders to obtain evidence from people other than the suspect.

•   arresting suspects, search upon arrest and questioning

•   provisions to help identify suspects and potential witnesses.

9   Certain provisions concerning the cross-border exercise of powers will also be applied to HMRC's criminal investigations. These provisions will clarify the procedures to follow when a criminal investigation involves cross-border issues, for example where a suspect is to be apprehended in England for a crime committed in Scotland.

10 A number of HMRC's existing criminal investigation powers (25 in total) will be superseded by this measure so they will be repealed.

Further advice

11 This measure was the subject of a consultation paper published on 17 January 2007 – Criminal Investigation Powers: Publication of draft clauses and explanatory notes. A Regulatory Impact Assessment, a summary of responses to that consultation and an explanation of changes made as a result will be published shortly.

12 If you have any questions about this change, please contact John Shuker on 020 7147 2403 (email: John.Shuker@hmrc.gsi.gov.uk). Information about Budget measures is available on the HM Revenue & Customs website at www.hmrc.gov.uk