CASE COMMENTS Bowman v Fels  EWCA Civ 226,  1 WLR 3083
It has been stated that “a person commits an offence if he enters into or becomes concerned in an arrangement which he knows or suspects facilitates (by whatever means) the acquisition, retention, use or control of criminal property by or on behalf of another person.” In Bowman v Fels, the courts concluded that this section of the act was not interpreted in a way by which it intended to cover or affect the ordinary conduct of litigation by legal professionals, which was the issue that arose here.
The facts of the case are somewhat straightforward. Jennifer Mary Bowman, the claimant, lived with the defendant, William John Fels, over a span of ten years between the period of May 1993 and April 2003. The premise they were residing in was registered in the defendant’s sole name. After the relationship between the claimant and the defendant ended, the claimant asserted a right to a beneficial interest in the said property they had jointly occupied. The claimant held that she rightly had an authority over the house as before it was purchased, the defendant had expressly agreed to share the purchase of the premise with her. This argument was brought before the House after the defendant had gone back on his word, to which legal proceedings started.
In preparing for the trial, Bowman’s solicitors had suspicions that Fels had wrongly included certain expenses to be business costs in his accounts as well as VAT returns carried out at the premises. Bowman’s solicitors notified the National Criminal Intelligence Service (NCIS) of this by their assumed obligation under section 328 of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002, but consequently had to seek to delay the trial as the consent required from the NCIS to allow them to proceed with the litigation would not be ready in time. They did not, during that period, inform Fels’ solicitors of the reasons of seeking an adjournment.
His Honour Judge Cowell found that Bowman’s solicitors were in the wrong for doing so. It was said that they should have rightfully explained to Fels' solicitors the reason by which they were seeking for an adjournment. Furthermore, their adamancy of refusing to prepare for trial whilst awaiting permission from NCIS was uncalled for. This is where we can begin to identify and analyse the various legal issues brought up here.
It has not been properly determined whether or not family lawyers can be found guilty for having committed the offences created by the section or whether charges brought against them for criminal liability would be deemed unsuccessful by virtue of the Act’s incompatibility with the privilege(s) given to the legal profession as well as the Human Rights Act 1998.
An issue to be determined here is whether or not section 328 objectively implied that a lawyer acting for a client in legal proceedings who discovers or suspects anything that may help or facilitate the proceeding should immediately...