HC Deb 06 April 1973 vol 854 cc811-3


' .—(1) Any person who—

  1. (a)with intent to defraud or deceive, makes a counterfeit of any die or mark; or
  2. (b)removes any mark from an article of precious metal with intent to transpose it to any other article (whether of precious metal or not) or affixes to any article (whether of precious metal or not) any mark which has been removed from an article of precious metal; or
  3. (c)utters any counterfeit of a die; or
  4. (d)without lawful authority or excuse, has in his custody or under his control anything which is, and which he knows or believes to be, a counterfeit of a die or an article (whether of precious metal or not) which bears a counterfeit of any mark,

(2)In subsection (1) above— die" means the whole or part of any plate, tool or instrument by means whereof any mark of the nature of a sponsor's mark or a hallmark is struck on any metal; and mark" means any mark of the nature of a sponsor's mark or hallmark. (3)For the purposes of subsection (1) above, a person utters any counterfeit die if knowing it or believing it to be a counterfeit, he sup plies, offers to supply, or delivers the die. (4)Sections 5(4)(b), 8(2)(a) and 16(2)(d) of the Forgery Act 1913, and so much of section 6 of that Act as relates to any dies used for the marking or stamping of gold or silver plate, or gold or silver wares, shall cease to have effect'.—[Mr. Wiggin.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

12.15 p.m.

Mr. Wiggin

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Mr. Deputy Speaker(Mr. E. L. Mallalieu)

With this we are to take Amendment No. 13, in page 8, line 22, leave out Clause 5.

Mr. Wiggin

The clause has caused a considerable amount of concern among my legal advisers, as this, again, is a very complicated matter. A considerable number of other pieces of legislation on the statute book affect it.

The new clause is effectively a revision of Clause 5 in the amended Bill. This clause, too, has been drafted with the help of parliamentary counsel. But in this case the assay offices and their advisers have given rather more than usual attention to this matter as it applies also to Scotland, and this creates extra-special difficulties.

The Law Commission has also been dealing with the whole question of forgery. The Commission has taken an interest in the composition of the clause. In particular, the Commission's interest in the proposals for the codification of criminal law also applies to the clause, so that the Commission will not in the future require to alter it. Again, this is looking into the future a little, but we are quite used to this in dealing with this kind of legislation.

The new clause is a little less harsh in some respects than both the existing law, by the Forgery Act 1913, and Clause 5 as introduced. For example, there is a greater emphasis on criminal intent as a necessary element, so that under paragraph (d) possession of a forged die or article, even by a dealer, is not an offence unless he knows it to be forged.

The new clause is particularly valuable in bringing the law of Scotland and the law of England into conformity. I would not wish to go into legal arguments about that, particularly with the hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh, Leith (Mr. Ronald King Murray). I think he would agree, however, that that is basically a good thing.

The Forgery Act 1913 did not apply in Scotland. Forgery there is only a crime at common law when combined with "uttering". The hon. and learned Member can refer to subsection (3) of the new clause for a defintion of that expression.

Consistent with the existing law, subsection (1) provides for higher maximum penalties than otherwise arise under the Bill, forgery here being proposed to give rise to a maximum fine of £400 on summary conviction and to a fine without limit or imprisonment for a term of up to 10 years on conviction on indictment. Some hon. Members may think that those penalties are severe. I accept that they are. But so they should be. Under the Forgery Act the term of imprisonment can be up to 14 years. It may be of interest to the House to know that until 1888 forgery in Scotland was a capital offence. Even today, I understand that the penalty for that crime in this instance could be life imprisonment. We are thus bringing the penalties more in line with modern thinking. The Forgery Act has a maximum penalty of imprisonment of 14 years. I think that we can claim to be a little more reasonable in maximum penalties. Nevertheless, it is right and proper that penalties should be severe.

It may be of help to those who are interested in this matter to refer to Clause 1 where the basic penalty for an offence under the Bill is a maximum of £400, as in the Trade Descriptions Act. Therefore, it is fair to say that it will not pay the criminal to break this law. In my view, that is as it should be.

Mr. Ronald King Murray

I welcome the new clause without any qualifications. The hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Wiggin) has obviously done a great deal of homework and his advisers nave produced an extremely effective and clear clause to replace Clause 5. If the House accepts the new clause as a satisfactory substitute for Clause 5, my Amendment No. 14, in page 9, line 4, leave out "means" and insert "includes", will fall. I am glad to note that the point I was making in that amendment has been met in this new clause.

Mr. Wiggin

I am glad that the hon. and learned Gentleman appreciates that we have taken cognisance of his views.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.

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