There were no surprises in the Queen’s speech yesterday, but some significant developments for the world of business crime.
By way of summary:
- The manifesto promise to scrap the Human Rights Act has slipped down the agenda, replaced with a consultation on a British Bill of Rights.
- The introduction of a policing and criminal justice bill, which will limit pre-charge bail to 28 days with an extension of up to three months authorised by a senior police officer. This may, in “exceptional circumstances” be extended by the courts, introducing judicial oversight to the pre-charge bail process.
- An investigatory powers bill.
- An enterprise bill, that will “require regulators to be more transparent by reporting against their compliance with existing statutory better regulation requirements. This will ensure that regulators design and deliver services and policies to best suits the needs of business.”
There was no mention of the proposed extension of section of the Bribery Act, or a new offence, to criminalise the failure of companies to prevent fraud.
It seems likely the Human Rights Act abolition has been kicked into the long grass. Without discussing the merits of abolition, the backing of the Act by so many prominent members of the Conservative Party (including the former Attorney General, Solicitor General and Minister of Justice) will no doubt lead the government to conclude abolition will be problematical.
The changes to investigatory powers will be of considerable importance. The bill is likely to focus on the access investigators may have to online communications, and make changes to the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA).
A limit of 28 days for pre-charge bail could have a significant impact on business crime investigations, which often last for months, if not years. The judicial oversight seems a good idea, adding an independent mind to the process.