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Law Commission calls for SAR guidance

The Law Commission has criticised the time that is wasted because lack of proper guidance leads to too many low quality SARs being made, which wastes both the time and money of those gathering information to report, and undermines the law enforcement process.  Our detailed article is here, and a summary is below.

The Law Commission concludes that low quality SARs result from:

  • too wide a definition of “criminal property”
  • lack of clarity on some key terms
  • the threat of individual criminal liability for failure to disclose

In its response paper following last year’s Discussion Paper, the Law Commission calls for:

  • an advisory board with a specific remit to oversee the drafting of guidance, measure the effectiveness of the SARs regime and advice the Secretary of State on how to improve it;
  • the consent regime to stay, but subject to improvements to make it more effective;
  • a standardised interactive online SAR submission form;
  • guidance on key concepts that underpin the regime, including suspicion, appropriate consent, arrangements with prior consent and reasonable excuse; and
  • a new exemption to allow credit and financial institutions to ringfence suspected criminal property, and to allow funds to be released when there is an extension to the moratorium.

Despite its concerns with the definition of criminal property, it does not propose a change from the “all crimes” reporting requirement, but does propose extending the circumstances in which a reporter may have a reasonable excuse for not reporting.

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Emma Radmore