The Coronavirus Bill—a guide for corporate crime practitioners

The Coronavirus Bill—a guide for corporate crime practitioners

Corporate Crime analysis: On 19 March 2020, the UK Government introduced the Coronavirus Bill into Parliament. This piece of emergency legislation is designed to give public bodies across the UK the tools and powers they need to carry out an effective response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak in the UK. Here we summarise some of the Bill’s key provisions from a corporate crime perspective.

Original News

Coronavirus Bill 2019-21

Live links in criminal proceedings

The Bill makes provision for the extended use of live links and audio links in criminal proceedings to give judges more options for avoiding adjournments and keeping business moving through the courts to help reduce delays in the administration of justice while the pandemic is in full swing. This could include magistrates’ court hearings taking place by phone or by video, in respect of an appeal against a restriction of movement due to quarantine measures.

Amendments are made to legislation including the Criminal Justice Act 2003 (CJA 2003), Criminal Appeal Act 1968 (CAA 1968), and the Criminal Justice Act 1988 (CJA 1988) to provide for the availability of audio links and live links in a greater variety of eligible criminal proceedings under a wider variety of circumstances. This includes eg proceedings that are preliminary or incidental to an appeal to the Crown Court, trials other than on indictment in the Crown Court and any proceedings that are preliminary or incidental to an appeal before the Court of Appeal (Criminal Division). The amendments also make changes to the procedure for making live link or audio link directions, redefine, for the purposes of such proceedings, where the court is and what taking part means and, by way of safeguards, imposes various conditions on the conduct of proceedings wholly by audio or video link.

Coroners’ inquests

Under current legislation, the status of coronavirus as a notifiable disease in England means that any inquest into a death, where the coroner has reason to suspect that the death was caused by the virus, must take place with a jury. The Bill modifies the current legislation to disapply the requirement that coroners must conduct any inquest with a jury where they have reason to suspect the death was caused by coronavirus. The Bill also provides for a medical practitioner who was not the practitioner, who treated an individual during their last illness, to sign the death certificate confirming the official cause of death and may even do so where no medical practitioner treated the individual during their last illness, provided that the practitioner is able to state to the best their knowledge and belief the cause of death.

Investigatory Powers appointments of Judicial Commissioners

The Bill creates the power for the Secretary of State to vary the appointment process for Judicial Commissioners, if the Investigatory Powers Commissioner notifies the Secretary of State that, as a result of the effects of coronavirus, there is a shortage of persons able to carry out functions conferred on Judicial Commissioners under various pieces of legislation including the Investigatory Powers Act 2016 (IPA 2016).

It also creates a power to vary the time periods of urgent warrants obtained under the IPA 2016, which is exercisable where the Investigatory Powers Commissioner notifies the Secretary of State that, in the Commissioner’s opinion, the power needs to be exercised in response to the effects that coronavirus is having, or is likely to have, on the capacity of Judicial Commissioners to carry out their function in this respect.

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