On 21 March 2014, the House of Commons, Public Accounts Committee (PAC) published a report on confiscation orders.
Their key findings are as follows:
- That confiscation orders are not being imposed in enough cases,
- That appropriate incentives for bodies to make and enforce confiscation orders do not exist,
- That the agencies involved in making and enforcing the orders are not working together consistently, promptly or effectively,
- That sanctions for offenders who fail to pay confiscation orders do not work.
As a result the PAC recommended the following:
- That the current incentive scheme be reviewed and that there should be greater transparency on the use made of funds raised via confiscation orders,
- That law enforcement and prosecution agencies agree on and apply a common set of criteria in order to increase the number of confiscation orders and to improve enforcement of the same (it is noted that the Crown Prosecution Service are currently developing new guidance in this regard),
- That all agencies involved in the imposing and enforcement of confiscation orders commit to improving their ICT systems and shared access to information,
- That financial investigators are brought in earlier, particularly in high value cases,
- That restraint orders are imposed more quickly to help preservation of assets,
- That the government introduce more robust sanctions for non payment of confiscation orders.
The PAC made reference to the Serious and Organise Crime Strategy recently published by the Home Office. Within that document the Home Office outline how they intend to toughen up the confiscation and restraint regime by introducing legislation that:
- Increases prison sentences for non payment of confiscation orders (the current maximum being 10 years imprisonment),
- Removes the requirement for criminals to sign a consent form before assets can be realised (this would change the remit of the current scheme to allow actual ‘confiscation’ of assets),
- Introduces travel restrictions and the tightening bail restrictions (the suggestion appears to be to keep defendants on bail until confiscation orders are made – this requirement currently ceases at the point of sentence),
- Reduces the time allowed to pay the confiscation order,
- Enables assets to be frozen more quickly and earlier on in investigations,
- Allows the Magistrates Court the power to impose confiscation orders in ‘low-value’ cases (currently only Crown Courts can impose confiscation orders).
It is our experience that the reality of the confiscation and restraint regime is already extremely draconian and the above measures are out of touch with the position we see defendants in regularly. As a result, we are extremely concerned at the proposals being put forward.
In view of the PACs recommendations and the above proposed changes in legislation, it seems inevitable that we are going to see an increase in the number of confiscation and restraint orders, particularly if there is a further increase in financial incentives to those agencies responsible for imposing and enforcing confiscation orders. It is therefore imperative for those accused of committing crimes where the benefit is a financial one, to seek early advice on these matters.
We represent a number of defendants who find themselves stuck with confiscation orders that they simply cannot afford to pay as a result of receiving insufficient advice and/or by failing to understand the consequences of receiving a confiscation order. This area of law is particularly complex with lifelong consequences for the defendant. This is yet another reason why specialist advice is essential and the earlier this can be received the better.
If you require any advice on confiscation and restraint please contact our dedicated team on 0845 894 1622 or at email@example.com
Read the full report by PAC here: