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The meaning of “dishonesty” in English criminal law

Legal wig copyright David Winch 2014
What is meant by “dishonesty” in English criminal law? When considering the meaning of dishonesty the criminal courts of England and Wales until now often referred to a case decided last century. Recently in the case of Ivey v Genting Casinos (UK) Ltd (t/a Crockfords) [2017] UKSC 67 (25 October 2017) the UK Supreme Court reconsidered the meaning of dishonesty – and came to some new conclusions.

 

The two-stage ‘Ghosh’ test

Until October 2017 the leading case on the meaning of dishonesty in English criminal law was R v Ghosh [1982] EWCA Crim 2. In that case, decided in 1982, the Court of Appeal determined that there was a two-stage test for dishonesty. The first stage was based on an objective criterion and the second stage was based on a subjective criterion. The two stage test was put in the following terms:-

“In determining whether the prosecution has proved that the defendant was acting dishonestly, a jury must first of all decide whether according to the ordinary standards of reasonable and honest people what was done was dishonest. If it was not dishonest by those standards, that is the end of the matter and the prosecution fails.

If it was dishonest by those standards, then the jury must consider whether the defendant himself must have realised that what he was doing was by those standards dishonest. In most cases, where the actions are obviously dishonest by ordinary standards, there will be no doubt about it. It will be obvious that the defendant himself knew that he was acting dishonestly. It is dishonest for a defendant to act in a way which he knows ordinary people consider to be dishonest, even if he asserts or genuinely believes that he is morally justified in acting as he did.”

So until October 2017 criminal courts operated on the basis that not only must the conduct of the defendant be dishonest by the ordinary standards of reasonable and honest people (the objective test) but the defendant himself must have realised that he was acting dishonestly by that standard (the subjective test).

 

The subjective test

What was implied in Ghosh, was that a defendant was entitled to say, “I did not know that anybody would regard what I was doing as dishonest” and if he was believed he should be acquitted of dishonesty (as the subjective test was not satisfied).

But the Supreme Court has now criticised that approach, saying that “It has the unintended effect that the more warped the defendant’s standards of honesty are, the less likely it is that he will be convicted of dishonest behaviour”.

The new judgment means that it is still necessary for the jury in the Crown Court or the magistrates in the Magistrates’ Court to reach conclusions about the actual state of mind of the defendant – but only insofar as this relates to the defendant’s state of knowledge or belief as to the facts.  The Supreme Court has now said that criminal courts should no longer ask themselves whether the defendant himself realised that he was acting in a way which ordinary people would consider to be dishonest.

 

The new legal position

So instead of the Ghosh test, when dishonesty is in question the court must first ascertain (subjectively) the actual state of the individual’s knowledge or belief as to the facts. The question is not whether that belief is reasonable – the question is whether it is genuinely held.  Once his actual state of mind as to knowledge or belief as to the facts is established, the question whether his conduct was honest or dishonest is to be determined by the jury or magistrates by applying the (objective) standards of ordinary decent people.

There is no longer any requirement that the defendant must appreciate that what he has done is, by those standards, dishonest.

One consequence of this is that the definition of “dishonesty” is now consistent between criminal and civil law in England and Wales.

 

An example

Suppose a person is newly arrived in England and he has come from a country in which all public transport is free.  He gets on a bus in London and on arriving at his destination gets off without paying.  He is charged under s3 Theft Act 1978 with dishonestly making off without payment.  But was he dishonest?

The issue is ‘Did he genuinely believe that no payment was required?’.  If he did then he has not been dishonest and should be acquitted.  If, on the other hand, he did know that payment was required then he was dishonest by not paying.

But this issue concerns the defendant’s belief about the relevant facts – the issue is not about his understanding of what constitutes “dishonesty”.  That is the change in the law as a result of the Supreme Court’s ruling in October 2017.

 

Is the defendant’s state of mind irrelevant?

So is it now totally irrelevant that the defendant wrongly believed that what he was doing was acceptable behaviour?  Well, not entirely.  A defendant’s deluded belief that he was not acting dishonestly (for example because he hoped one day to repay money which he was stealing and spending) will not now result in his acquittal.  But it could be put forward in mitigation on sentencing that he had no intention to cause harm to his unfortunate victim.

Contacting us

Our contact details are here.

David

(Note: This article applies to matters arising under the provisions of the criminal law in England and Wales.  Appropriate professional advice should be sought in each individual case.)

Money Laundering Regulations 2017

Big Ben imageThe final wording of the new Money Laundering Regulations 2017 was published on 22 June 2017. To give them their full title The Money Laundering, Terrorist Financing and Transfer of Funds (Information on the Payer) Regulations 2017 came into force on 26 June 2017.  The reality is however that the new Regulations will take a year or two to be fully effective.

The Regulations run to over 100 pages.  I cannot describe them fully in a blog such as this, but I will mention a few points of interest.  These regulations replace the Money Laundering Regulations 2007 (as amended) and The Transfer of Funds (Information on the Payer) Regulations 2007.  Many of the provisions of the 2017 Regulations simply continue requirements of the 2007 ones.  But there are some changes of emphasis and important new requirements too.  The new Regulations also implement in UK law the requirements of the EU Fourth Money Laundering Directive.

  1. The hierarchy of risk assessments
  2. Written policies, controls and procedures
  3. Changes for High Value Dealers
  4. Changes for Estate Agents
  5. Politically exposed persons
  6. Banning persons with criminal convictions
  7. Conclusion
  8. Contacting us

 

The hierarchy of risk assessments

The new Regulations set out a hierarchy of risk assessments.  The UK government, in particular HM Treasury and Home Office, are required by regulation 16 to make arrangements before 26 June 2018 for a risk assessment to be undertaken to identify, assess, understand and mitigate the risks of money laundering and terrorist financing affecting the United Kingdom.

Then under regulation 17 each of the various supervisory bodies must identify and assess the international and domestic risks of money laundering and terrorist financing to which those relevant persons for which it is the supervisory authority (“its own sector”) are subject.  The supervisory body must take into account the risk assessment from HM Treasury and Home Office.

Finally under regulation 18 each ‘relevant person’ (businesses in the regulated sector) must take appropriate steps to identify and assess the risks of money laundering and terrorist financing to which its own business is subject.

In carrying out that risk assessment a relevant person must take into account information made available to it by its supervisory authority and its own risk factors. Those will include risk factors relating to its customers, the countries or geographic areas in which it operates, its products or services, its transactions and its delivery channels.

 

Written policies, controls and procedures

The new Regulations are much more prescriptive about the written policies, controls and procedures required.  Regulation 19 in particular spells out these requirements.

    • (1) A relevant person must
      • (a) establish and maintain policies, controls and procedures to mitigate and manage effectively the risks of money laundering and terrorist financing identified in any risk assessment undertaken by the relevant person under regulation 18(1);
      • (b) regularly review and update the policies, controls and procedures established under sub-paragraph (a);
      • (c) maintain a record in writing of —
        • (i) the policies, controls and procedures established under sub-paragraph (a);
        • (ii) any changes to those policies, controls and procedures made as a result of the review and update required by sub-paragraph (b); and
        • (iii) the steps taken to communicate those policies, controls and procedures, or any changes to them, within the relevant person’s business.
    • (2) The policies, controls and procedures adopted by a relevant person under paragraph (1) must be —
      • (a) proportionate with regard to the size and nature of the relevant person’s business, and
      • (b) approved by its senior management.
    • (3) The policies, controls and procedures referred to in paragraph (1) must include —
      • (a) risk management practices;
      • (b) internal controls (see regulations 21 to 24);
      • (c) customer due diligence (see regulations 27 to 38);
      • (d) reliance and record keeping (see regulations 39 to 40);
      • (e) the monitoring and management of compliance with, and the internal communication of, such policies, controls and procedures.
    • (4) The policies, controls and procedures referred to in paragraph (1) must include policies, controls and procedures —
      • (a) which provide for the identification and scrutiny of –
        • (i) any case where —
          • (aa) a transaction is complex and unusually large, or there is an unusual pattern of transactions, and
          • (bb) the transaction or transactions have no apparent economic or legal purpose, and
        • (ii) any other activity or situation which the relevant person regards as particularly likely by its nature to be related to money laundering or terrorist financing;
      • (b) which specify the taking of additional measures, where appropriate, to prevent the use for money laundering or terrorist financing of products and transactions which might favour anonymity;
      • (c) which ensure that when new technology is adopted by the relevant person, appropriate measures are taken in preparation for, and during, the adoption of such technology to assess and if necessary mitigate any money laundering or terrorist financing risks this new technology may cause;
      • (d) under which anyone in the relevant person’s organisation who knows or suspects (or has reasonable grounds for knowing or suspecting) that a person is engaged in money laundering or terrorist financing as a result of information received in the course of the business or otherwise through carrying on that business is required to comply with —
        • (i) Part 3 of the Terrorism Act 2000; or
        • (ii) Part 7 of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002;
      • (e) which, in the case of a money service business that uses agents for the purpose of its business, ensure that appropriate measures are taken by the business to assess —
        • (i) whether an agent used by the business would satisfy the fit and proper test provided for in regulation 58; and
        • (ii) the extent of the risk that the agent may be used for money laundering or terrorist financing.
    • (5) In determining what is appropriate or proportionate with regard to the size and nature of its business, a relevant person may take into account any guidance which has been —
      • (a) issued by the FCA; or
      • (b) issued by any other supervisory authority or appropriate body and approved by the Treasury.

This regulation effectively requires each business in the regulated sector to draw up new written statements of policies, controls and procedures.

 

Changes for High Value Dealers

It was expected that the monetary lower limit for cash transactions would be reduced from €15,000.  That has indeed happened and the new limit is €10,000.  This means that when a firm or sole trader who by way of business trades in goods (including an auctioneer dealing in goods) receives, in respect of any transaction, a payment or payments in cash of at least 10,000 euros (or equivalent) in total he is acting as a ‘high value dealer’ and is subject to the Regulations.  As previously, this applies whether the transaction is executed in a single operation or in several operations which appear to be linked.

But Regulation 14 makes two other changes for High Valuer Dealers.  Now these Regulations apply where such a trader makes such a payment as well as when he receives one.

Also the regulation specifies that a payment does not cease to be a “payment in cash” for these purposes if cash is paid by or on behalf of the person making the payment to a person other than the other party to the transaction for the benefit of the other party, or into a bank account for the benefit of the other party to the transaction.

 

Changes for Estate Agents

An important change for estate agents is that by Regulation 4 an estate agent is to be treated as entering into a business relationship with a purchaser (as well as with a seller) at the point when the purchaser’s offer is accepted by the seller.

This means that at that stage the estate agent will have to complete customer due diligence on the purchaser of a property.  That was not previously required where the estate agent had been instructed by the seller.

This provision may help to address concerns about overseas buyers using tainted funds to purchase properties in the UK.

 

Politically exposed persons

A new definition of ‘politically exposed persons’ in Regulation 35 means that a UK senior politician entrusted with prominent public functions would also now be regarded as a PEP.  As a result additional anti-money laundering precautions are necessary when dealing with him or with a family member or close associate of his.

 

Banning persons with criminal convictions

The Regulations effectively will prevent a person who has been convicted of a ‘relevant offence’ from being a beneficial owner, officer or manager of a firm or a sole practitioner in specified types of business within the regulated sector.  This is achieved by Regulation 26 using a rather circuitous mechanism.

The regulation requires beneficial owners, officers and managers of a firm and sole practitioners to be approved by their supervisory body (before 26 June 2018) if the firm is an accountant, tax adviser, auditor, insolvency practitioner, legal professional, estate agent or high value dealer.  But the supervisory body is required to approve anyone who applies to it unless the applicant has been convicted of a ‘relevant offence’.  If a person is inadvertently approved who has a conviction for a ‘relevant offence’ their approval is invalid (and a valid approval becomes invalid when an approved person is newly convicted).

There is a list of ‘relevant offences’ in Schedule 3 to the Regulations.  These include “any offence which has deception or dishonesty as one of its components” as well as a long list of specified offences, including offences under the Data Protection Act 1998 and Perjury Act 1911, for example.  Unsurprisingly, tax and money laundering offences are included in the list.

One ramification of this will be that for an accountant, for example, being convicted of a ‘relevant offence’ could effectively end his career.

It is not clear, to me at least, whether this will affect persons who have old offences which would be regarded for most purposes as ‘spent’ under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974.

 

Conclusion

The Money Laundering Regulations 2017 make significant changes to the law which will affect every business in the regulated sector.

 

Contacting us

Our contact details are here.

David

(Note: This article deals with the Money Laundering, Terrorist Financing and Transfer of Funds (Information on the Payer) Regulations 2017 so far as they apply in England and Wales. Appropriate professional advice should be sought in each individual case.)

Confiscation – a huge figure of benefit

 

My name is David Winch, Director of Accounting Evidence Ltd.

We are forensic accountants specialising in crime and proceeds of crime, typically under legal aid

funding arrangements, in Crown Court cases in England and Wales.

You are a solicitor with a section 16 Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 statement landed on your desk.

There’s a huge figure of benefit for your client, an available amount that doesn’t make any sense

and hundreds of pages of appendices.

What do you do?

Well, give us a call on 01229  716651 and speak to me

or email me via the Quick Query button at the foot of the homepage.

Accounting Evidence.

It’s what we do.

 

Contacting us

Our contact details are here.

David

Video produced by On Record Media Ltd info@onrecord.media 07872 550905

Restraint orders under PoCA 2002

Restraint orders can be obtained by the authorities acting under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 – but in what circumstances and what are the effects?  This blog article attempts to answer some of the most common questions about restraint orders.

 

What is a restraint order?

Essentially a restraint order under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 is an order made by a Crown Court judge, normally at the request of the police or other investigating or prosecuting authority, which effectively ‘freezes’ the assets (including bank accounts) of an individual or a company.  A single restraint order may apply to several connected individuals and / or companies.  A restraint order is typically designed to ‘freeze’ all the assets of the individual(s) and company(ies) to whom it is directed, including assets legitimately acquired and even including assets outside the UK.

The key legislation in relation to England & Wales is sections 40 – 47 PoCA 2002.

 

When can a restraint order be made?

A restraint order can be made at any time after a criminal investigation has commenced into suspected criminal conduct from which an individual or company is suspected to have benefited.  It is not necessary for the investigation to have progressed as far as the arrest of anybody, nor is it necessary that anybody has been charged with an offence.

But the applicant for the restraint order must show that he has reasonable grounds to suspect that a benefit has been obtained from criminal conduct, s40.  Ordinarily a restraint order should be made only if there is genuinely a risk that assets will be dissipated (for example being spent, hidden, given away or removed from the country) in the absence of such an order, see s69 and R v B [2008] EWCA Crim 1374.

 

How is a restraint order made?

A restraint order is normally made by a Crown Court judge on an application by the police / Crown Prosecution Office or other authority.  Before making the restraint order the judge will be provided with a witness statement (often supported by other documentary evidence) from the applicant for the order.  However the subject(s) of the order will NOT have an opportunity to challenge the making of the order at this stage and will NOT be informed of the application until after the restraint order has been made.

As a result the subject(s) of the restraint order will normally be unaware of the application until he / she / they are served with a copy of the restraint order – by which time it will already be in force.

 

Who can be the subject of a restraint order?

An individual or company may be the subject of a restraint order if he / she / it is an alleged offender who is suspected to have benefited from an offence or is a person who (though not an alleged offender) has received assets from an alleged offender (by way of what is known as a ‘tainted gift’).

It follows that a restraint order may be drawn up to name as its subjects not only the alleged offender but also, for example, his spouse.

 

What is the effect of the restraint order?

The restraint order will prevent the assets of the subject(s) being dissipated by preventing the sale or transfer of those assets and by ‘freezing’ the subject’s bank accounts.  Technically the restraint order prohibits each subject from “dealing with” his assets. The restraint order will typically list known bank accounts and assets of the subject and will contain clauses designed to ensure that the order relates to those assets and accounts and to any other assets and accounts which are not shown on the list.

There is normally a provision in the restraint order allowing the subject to draw and spend a sum of money, typically £250 per week, to meet day to day living expenses.

The applicant who obtained the restraint order will normally serve copies of it on the subject(s) of the order and send copies of it to banks, etc at which the subject(s) are believed to have accounts and to, for example, the Land Registry in relation to land and buildings owned by the subject(s).

 

Can a restraint order be challenged?

Yes.  The subject of a restraint order can apply to have the order discharged (cancelled) or amended.  The application will be heard by a Crown Court judge who will hear submissions both from the applicant for the original order and the subject(s) of that order.

Typically a subject of a restraint order will apply to have the terms of the order relaxed, for example to allow a higher level of living expenses or to allow monies to be used to pay specific expenses (such as mortgage payments) or to remove one or more of the subjects from the scope of the order.

In some circumstances it may be appropriate for a subject to apply to the court to have the order limited so as to cover only specified assets.

The decision of the Crown Court judge can be the subject of an appeal to the Court of Appeal and beyond.

Where the restraint order impacts upon a legitimate business it may be necessary to make careful arrangements in the order to allow the business to continue in operation – to pay employees’ wages and business expenditures, for example.  One option in such a situation is for the court to appoint a management receiver (such as an independent accountant or insolvency practitioner) to operate the business whilst protecting the business assets from dissipation. However this may prove expensive and the management receiver’s fees are normally met out of the assets which he is managing, so in effect the subject pays his fees.

 

What is the purpose of a restraint order?

Ultimately the purpose of a restraint order is to preserve the assets of the subject(s) so that they remain available to meet any confiscation order which the Crown Court may make after the alleged offender has been charged, tried and convicted of an offence, s69.

 

 

What else might a restraint order require?

Commonly a restraint order includes clauses requiring the subject(s) of the order to disclose further information to the authorities concerning their assets, s41(7).  This information may then be used to assist in ensuring the effectiveness of the restraint in preventing the dissipation of assets and to assist the prosecution in confiscation proceedings following the conviction of the alleged offender(s).  However the information cannot be used by the prosecution in the course of the alleged offender’s criminal trial.

A restraint order may also contain a requirement to return to the UK assets held overseas (such as monies in an overseas bank account).

 

What about paying the alleged offender’s legal fees?

Restrained assets cannot be used to meet any legal fees of the alleged offender in connection with his defence against any criminal charges arising from the investigation which formed the basis of the application for the restraint order, see s41(4) PoCA 2002.  This means that the alleged offender will have to rely on legal aid (or gifts from friends) to meet his defence costs.

 

What about payments made to lawyers before the restraint order was made?

Where a solicitor holds funds in his client account which he has received from a person who has since become subject to a restraint order then the balance standing to the credit of the client is an asset of the subject which (like his other assets) is ‘frozen’ by the restraint order.

It is permissible for the solicitor to bill work done by him up to the date of the restraint order and pay himself for that work by transfer from the client account.  But similar transfers cannot be made in respect of any subsequent legal work, see Irwin Mitchell v RCPO & Allad [2008] EWCA Crim 1741 at paragraph [40].

 

What is the effect of breaching the restraint order?

A person who breaches a restraint order may be held to be in contempt of court (this is a ‘civil’ contempt, see R v O’Brien [2014] UKSC 23, which can nevertheless result in imprisonment) or may be subject to prosecution for attempting to pervert the course of justice, see Kenny v R [2013] EWCA Crim 1 at paragraph [41].

 

When does the restraint come to an end?

A restraint order will continue in force until it is lifted by the Crown Court.  This could be on an application by the subject of the order, or where proceedings are not brought within a reasonable time as a consequence of a criminal investigation which has not resulted in anyone being charged, or on the acquittal of the alleged offender, or on the satisfaction of any confiscation order made by the Crown Court following the alleged offender’s conviction.

Even after a confiscation order has been satisfied or discharged a restraint order may continue in force & restrained assets may then be used to satisfy any outstanding legal aid contribution related to the criminal proceedings.

 

Conclusion

Anyone finding himself subject to a restraint order under PoCA 2002 should seek appropriate legal advice without delay.

David

 

[This article has been updated to reflect legal changes made with effect from 1 June 2015.]

(Note: This article applies to restraint orders under the provisions of Part 2 of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 in England and Wales. There are a number of additional issues which could be relevant to a subject’s restraint order in particular cases which it is not possible to deal with in a relatively short article such as this. Appropriate professional advice should be sought in each individual case.)

Confiscation – default sentence

When making a confiscation order in the Crown Court the judge will specify a ‘default sentence’ – a consecutive prison term which the defendant may be required to serve if he fails to satisfy the confiscation order.  A default sentence could be described as an additional penalty for failing to pay the confiscation order on time.

The intention is that the threat of triggering the default sentence will encourage the defendant to pay up.  Serving the default sentence is not an alternative to paying the confiscation figure – the amount originally ordered to be paid remains payable even after the default sentence has been served.

 

How long is the default sentence?

The MAXIMUM length of the default sentence which the Crown Court judge may specify when making the confiscation order is set out in s139 Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000.  The maximum is related to the amount which the defendant is ordered to pay, which is sometimes referred to as the ‘recoverable amount’.  This will be the lower of his ‘benefit’ and his ‘available amount’ as found by the Crown Court.

These maximum sentences are set out in bands in s139(4), depending upon the amount ordered to be paid:

An amount not exceeding £200 7 days
An amount exceeding £200 but not exceeding £500 14 days
An amount exceeding £500 but not exceeding £1,000 28 days
An amount exceeding £1,000 but not exceeding £2,500 45 days
An amount exceeding £2,500 but not exceeding £5,000 3 months
An amount exceeding £5,000 but not exceeding £10,000 6 months
An amount exceeding £10,000 but not exceeding £20,000 12 months
An amount exceeding £20,000 but not exceeding £50,000 18 months
An amount exceeding £50,000 but not exceeding £100,000 2 years
An amount exceeding £100,000 but not exceeding £250,000 3 years
An amount exceeding £250,000 but not exceeding £1 million 5 years
An amount exceeding £1 million 10 years

 

[UPDATE: See a revised table of default sentences from 1 June 2015 HERE.]

However a judge may specify any length of default sentence, even a very short one – provided he does not exceed the relevant maximum length from this table.

In practice judges have been encouraged by decisions of the Court of Appeal in cases such as Pigott v R [2009] EWCA Crim 2292 to use appropriate discretion in fixing default sentences and not to automatically apply the maximum sentences set out in s139Typically the judge will fix a default sentence somewhere between the maximum for the appropriate band in the table and the maximum for the band below, bearing in mind that the purpose of the default term is to secure payment of the confiscation order.  But judges are discouraged from applying a purely mathematical approach to fixing the default term.

 

An example

So, for example, if a confiscation order was being made in the sum of £500,000 one would expect the judge to set a default sentence no greater than the maximum permitted for that amount (which is 5 years) and no less than the maximum for the band below (which is 3 years).

But one would not expect the judge to feel bound to fix the default sentence at a term based on a mathematical calculation, which would be 3 years 8 months (i.e. 3 years plus one third of an extra 2 years because the amount of £500,000 is one third of the way between £250,000 and £1,000,000).

 

Co-operation

Although the judge should consider all the circumstances of the case in fixing the default sentence, he is likely to be particularly influenced by the co-operation, or lack of it, which the defendant has displayed in his conduct in relation to the confiscation proceedings.

 

Very large amounts

A particular difficulty arises where the confiscation order is for an amount in excess of £1 million because the table gives no guidance as to when it may become appropriate for a default sentence to be made in the maximum period of 10 years.

The Court of Appeal considered this point in the case of R v Castillo [2011] EWCA Crim 3173 in which a default term had been set at 10 years in relation to an order for £3 million against a defendant who was held to have deliberately hidden his ill-gotten gains outside the UK.

Notwithstanding the size of the order and the lack of co-operation from the defendant, the Court of Appeal reduced the default sentence in Mr Castillo’s case to nine years.

 

Early release

Prisoners who are further detained at the end of their sentence in default of a confiscation order are eligible for early release at the halfway stage of the default sentence under s258 Criminal Justice Act 2003 and are eligible to be considered for early release on temporary licence (see chapter 5.3 of Prison Service Order 6300).

[UPDATE: See revised position re orders of £10 million or more from 1 June 2015 HERE.]

But in addition a default term is reduced pro-rata to any payments received in part satisfaction of the confiscation order.  This is a purely mathematical exercise. (The underlying statute law involves a complex path from s35(2) PoCA 2002 to ss139 & 140 Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000 to s79(2) Magistrates’ Courts Act 1980. There are worked examples of the calculation in Chapter 16 of PSO 6650 ‘Sentence Calculation’.)  So, for example, suppose Timothy had been ordered to pay £600,000 with a four year prison term in default.  Let’s say Timothy has paid £500,000 and there remains £100,000 outstanding.  Timothy’s default sentence has now become 8 months – or, more accurately, 243 days (i.e. one-sixth of his original default sentence of 4 years because one-sixth of the original amount remains outstanding).

[UPDATE: See a more detailed article about reductions for part payments HERE.]

Contrast this with Gerald who has a confiscation order made against him for £100,000 with a default sentence set at 2 years and has made no payment off it.  Gerald also has £100,000 outstanding but, unlike Timothy, his default sentence is 2 years.  That apparent unfairness is a result of the non-linear basis of the table of default sentences in s139.

 

Appeals

In the past default sentences have proved to be a fertile ground for appeals by defendants – particularly where the Crown Court judge has been too quick to apply the maximum term specified in s139.  In all likelihood we shall continue to see a steady stream of such cases making their way to the Court of Appeal.

However it appears that the prosecution has no right to appeal against a default sentence which it considers is too short, see R v Mills [2018] EWCA Crim 944 at para [37].

 

David

(Note: This article applies to default sentences relating to confiscation orders under the provisions of Part 2 of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 in England and Wales. There are a number of additional issues which could be relevant to a defendant’s default sentence in particular cases which it is not possible to deal with in a relatively short article such as this.  Appropriate professional advice should be sought in each individual case.)

Confiscation – available amount

This article considers what is meant by a defendant’s ‘available amount’ and explains some of the rules the court must follow in determining the ‘available amount’.

In confiscation proceedings against a convicted defendant the Crown Court will ordinarily have to separately determine two figures – the ‘benefit’ obtained by the defendant and his ‘available amount’.  The court will then order the defendant to pay an amount equal to the lower of these two figures (see s7).

This article is based on the confiscation provisions of Part 2 of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002, PoCA 2002, which apply in England & Wales.  Slightly different rules apply in Scotland and Northern Ireland.  In earlier confiscation legislation the ‘available amount’ was referred to as the ‘amount that might be realised’.

 

The ‘available amount’ is not the amount available

Like a lot of expressions used in confiscation, ‘available amount’ is defined by PoCA 2002 and has a specific meaning which is not the same as the meaning of the expression in everyday English usage.  A defendant’s ‘available amount’ is not simply the amount he has available to pay a confiscation orderSection 9 of PoCA 2002 defines ‘available amount’ as the total of the values (at the time the confiscation order is made) of all the free property then held by the defendant minus the total amount payable in pursuance of obligations which then have priority, and the total of the values (at that time) of all tainted gifts.

Typically a defendant’s ‘available amount’ is the total of all his assets less any liabilities secured on those assets, plus the value of any tainted gifts.  Take a simple example:  John and his wife jointly own their home which is currently valued at £300,000, there is an outstanding mortgage currently of £260,000 on it, John has £1,000 in a bank account in his own name, he owns shares quoted on the London Stock Exchange which have a current value of £12,000, he owes £15,000 on credit cards, and he has £80,000 in a pension scheme (which he cannot currently access as he is aged only 45), five years ago he gave £10,000 to his son Jake.  Let’s assume that for confiscation purposes John has a ‘criminal lifestyle‘.  What is John’s ‘available amount’?

John’s ‘available amount’ is £43,000.  This is made up of £20,000 as his half-share of the equity in his home, the £1,000 in the bank account, the shares worth £12,000 and the £10,000 gift to Jake.  The mortgage is taken into account because it is secured on the property and so reduces the value of John’s interest in the house, see s79(3).  The credit card debts are not secured on any asset and so are ignored.  The pension scheme has a realisable value of nil because John cannot access it at present (see R v Chen [2009] EWCA Crim 2669). The value of the gift to Jake is added in because it is a ‘tainted gift’ (see s77).

[NOTE: Since this article was written the circumstances in which a person may access monies in a pension scheme have changed. If, under current legislation, John were able to access a sum of money from his pension scheme then that sum would form part of his available amount.]

Let’s assume that the court has determined John’s ‘benefit’ to be £100,000.  The court will order John to pay £43,000 (because this is his ‘available amount’ which is lower than his ‘benefit’) and can initially allow him up to three* months to pay (see s11).  In default John may have to serve an additional term of imprisonment of up to 5 years*, because the amount does not exceed £500,000* (see s35(2A) PoCA 2002).

[NOTE: *The time to pay period was reduced to three months, from six months, by s5 Serious Crime Act 2015; the maximum default sentence in relation to an amount of £43,000 was increased to 5 years, from 18 months, by s10 Serious Crime Act 2015.]

In practice John will have difficulty paying the £43,000 because the only money he has readily available is the £1,000 in the bank account and the £12,000 he can raise from selling the shares.  He may need to sell the house in order to pay off the confiscation order in full.  He should talk to his solicitor about seeking further time to pay and about requesting reconsideration of the ‘available amount’ if the house and the shares cannot be sold for the full amount of their valuation.

 

Establishing the ‘available amount’

In law the burden is upon the defendant to satisfy the court that his ‘available amount’ is less than his ‘benefit’ (see s7 which says “if the defendant shows that the available amount is less than that benefit . . .”).

In practice the prosecutor will normally supply information about the defendant’s ‘available amount’ in his s16 statement.  The defendant may feel that the information supplied by the prosecutor is incorrect or incomplete, but it is up to the defendant to supply the correct information.

If the defendant fails to supply information about his ‘available amount’ to the court, or the court is not satisfied that the information supplied by him is correct and complete, then the court might simply make an order that the defendant should pay the whole amount of his ‘benefit’.  Indeed in the case of R v Barwick [2000] EWCA Crim 3551 the Court of Appeal went so far as to say “once the benefit has been proved, it is permissible and ought normally to be the approach of the court, to conclude that the benefit remains available until the defendant proves otherwise”.

That was exactly what the English courts did in the case of Mr Barnham, R v Barnham [2005] EWCA Crim 1049.  Mr Barnham ultimately appealed to the European Court of Human Rights contending that the burden placed upon him to satisfy the court of his ‘available amount’ involved a breach of his human rights, but the European Court found against him.

 

When the evidence is unsatisfactory

However it does not follow that in every case in which the court is not satisfied that the defendant has made a complete and accurate disclosure of his ‘available amount’ the court will make a confiscation order in the full amount of the benefit.

In the case of McIntosh v R [2011] EWCA Crim 1501 the Court of Appeal said, “there is no principle that a court is bound to reject a defendant’s case that his current realisable assets are less than the full amount of the benefit, merely because it concludes that the defendant has not revealed their true extent or value, or has not participated in any revelation at all  . . . The court may conclude that a defendant’s realisable assets are less than the full value of the benefit on the basis of the facts as a whole.  A defendant who is found not to have told the truth or who has declined to give truthful disclosure will inevitably find it difficult to discharge the burden imposed upon him.  But it may not be impossible for him to do so.  Other sources of evidence, apart from the defendant himself, and a view of the case as a whole, may persuade a court that the assets available to the defendant are less than the full value of the benefit.”

It appears therefore that a Crown Court judge has some scope to weigh the evidence as a whole in coming to his own determination of a defendant’s ‘available amount’ where there is uncertainty about the true position.

 

Inadequacy of available amount

Where, after the confiscation order has been made, it transpires that the defendant’s assets are less valuable than previously thought or, on realisation, they fail to produce the expected value, then the defendant may request the court to adjust his available amount.  That will involve the court reconsidering the entirety of the defendant’s available amount – so that the values all the defendant’s assets taken into account in the confiscation order are reconsidered by the court.

 

Appeals

It is possible for an appeal to be made against a confiscation order on the basis that the Crown Court judge has made an error in his determination of the defendant’s ‘available amount’.

There is a recorded case, R v Lemmon [1991] EWCA Crim 1, in which a confiscation order was quashed on appeal when a professional residential property valuation obtained after the date of the confiscation hearing showed that the defendant’s ‘available amount’ had been overstated.  However that decision may be specific to its facts.  In particular it appears that in that case “the figures put as the value of his realisable assets were unknown to the appellant until the day of the hearing”.  Ordinarily a defendant will be made aware of the prosecution’s assertions regarding his ‘available amount’ in advance of the Crown Court hearing, as they will be set out in the prosecutor’s s16 statement.

In the case of R v Davies [2004] EWCA Crim 3380 a prosecution valuation of property (which proved to be an over-valuation) was not challenged at the confiscation hearing.  Subsequently a professional valuation was obtained in a substantially lower figure and an appeal was lodged against the order.  In the Court of Appeal defence counsel indicated that the valuation had not been challenged due to an oversight on his part.  The Court of Appeal considered, at paragraphs [11] to [14], that the Crown Court judge had been misled as to the value of the property and it amended the defendant’s ‘available amount’ and hence the amount of the confiscation order.

As a result of amendments made to the Criminal Appeal Act 1968 by s140 Coroners and Justice Act 2009 it is now open to the Court of Appeal to remit confiscation cases to the Crown Court for re-hearing.  However it would be unwise, I suggest, to assume that a failure by the defence to carefully consider the defendant’s ‘available amount’ at the time of the Crown Court hearing could always be remedied on appeal.

David

(Note: There are a number of issues which could be relevant to a defendant’s ‘available amount’ in particular cases which it is not possible to deal with in a relatively short article such as this.  Appropriate professional advice should be sought in each individual case.)

Confiscation – counts left to lie on the file

In confiscation proceedings counts left to lie on the file may have unwelcome implications which had not been foreseen by the defendant and his legal team at an earlier stage.  What are these implications?

 

Counts left to lie on the file

in any subsequent confiscation proceedings there is, I venture to suggest, a very important difference between these two methods of disposal

When a defendant has been charged with more than one offence he may wish to offer a guilty plea to some of the counts he faces if the remaining counts against him will not be pursued.  Those counts which are not pursued might be dealt with in one of two ways.  The prosecution could state in court that they propose to offer no evidence on those counts.  The judge will then formally record ‘not guilty’ verdicts in relation to them.

Alternatively the prosecution could invite the judge to agree that the counts are to be ‘left to lie on the file’ without any verdict being entered.  That means that the prosecution may only revive and proceed on those counts in wholly exceptional circumstances.

So it would appear that, in practical terms, the outcome is the same – those allegations have been disposed of and the defendant will no longer face prosecution for them.  But in any subsequent confiscation proceedings there is, I venture to suggest, a very important difference between these two methods of disposal.

Case law

Case law indicates that where a defendant has been formally acquitted of a count it is not open to the prosecution to suggest, in confiscation proceedings based on his conviction on one or more other counts on the same indictment, that the defendant was in fact guilty of that offence.  To do so would imply that the court has ‘got it wrong’ so far as the acquittal is concerned.

it is not open to the state to undermine the effect of the acquittal

In R (on the application of Adams) v Secretary of State for Justice [2011] UKSC 18 the Supreme Court held at paragraph [111] “the principle that is applied is that it is not open to the state to undermine the effect of the acquittal”.  Similarly the Supreme Court held in Gale v Serious Organised Crime Agency [2011] UKSC 49 at paragraph [115] “in all proceedings following an acquittal the court should be astute to ensure that nothing that it says or decides is calculated to cast the least doubt upon the correctness of the acquittal”.

In this respect the UK Supreme Court judgments are consistent with the decision of the European Court of Human Rights in the case of Geerings v The Netherlands [2007] ECHR 191.  In the Geerings case a confiscation order made against Mr Geerings following his conviction of certain offences was assessed, in part, on the basis that he was in fact also guilty of other offences of which he had been acquitted in the same proceedings.  The European Court held that this had violated his Article 6(2) right to the presumption of innocence.

in contrast . . . the defendant may find that the burden will rest upon him

In contrast where counts have been left to ‘lie on the file’ I suggest that it is open to the prosecutor, in confiscation proceedings, to suggest that the defendant is in fact guilty of those offences.  Indeed in a ‘criminal lifestyle‘ confiscation the defendant may find that the burden will rest upon him to satisfy the court, on the balance of probabilities, that he is not guilty of those offences.

Simon’s case

An example from a recent case in which I was involved may underline the point.  The defendant, let’s call him Simon, ran a plant hire business.  His premises were raided by the police who examined 91 items of plant which he hired out.  They found 39 of these items to have been stolen property.  Simon was charged with 39 counts of ‘handling’ under s22 Theft Act 1968 on the basis that he knew or believed these items to be stolen.  Simon denied that he knew or believed the items to be stolen but, shortly before the matter came for trial, he pleaded guilty to 9 of the 39 counts and all parties agreed to the remaining 30 counts being left to ‘lie on the file’.

Simon was subsequently subject to confiscation on the basis that he had a ‘criminal lifestyle‘ having been convicted of more than 3 offences and having obtained from them a benefit of at least £5,000 (which was not disputed).  In the confiscation proceedings the prosecution asserted that the income generated from the hiring out of all 39 items was benefit of Simon’s criminal conduct.  The defence contended that the benefit should be assessed only by reference to the income from the hire of the 9 items in relation to which Simon had been convicted.

The judge entirely disbelieved and rejected Simon’s evidence

The judge heard oral evidence from Simon regarding his state of knowledge concerning the 30 items and also heard oral evidence from other witnesses.  The judge entirely disbelieved and rejected Simon’s evidence and based the confiscation order on the income generated from the hire of all 39 stolen items.

In approaching the matter in the way he did, the judge acted consistently with the recent Court of Appeal judgment in Bagnall v R [2012] EWCA Crim 677.  It was open to the judge to apply the statutory assumptions which, in his judgment, Simon had failed to rebut in relation to income generated from the hire of all 39 stolen items.  This did not, in law, amount to a finding that Simon was guilty of offences of which he had not been convicted (although it had the same effect in terms of the confiscation order).

In a jury trial the burden would have been upon the prosecution to prove, to the criminal standard, that Simon knew or believed that each of the items of plant was stolen

No doubt the outcome of the confiscation would have been significantly different if Simon had been formally acquitted of the 30 counts to which he did not plead guilty.  Alternatively, had Simon insisted, insofar as he was able, that he face trial before a jury on the 30 counts (and, in my view at least, a defendant has a right to a fair trial on all the counts with which he has been charged) it is possible that he would have been acquitted on some or all of those counts.  In a jury trial the burden would have been upon the prosecution to prove, to the criminal standard, that Simon knew or believed that each of the items of plant was stolen.  As things turned out, acquittals on any of the counts would have led to a better outcome for Simon in the confiscation proceedings.

So, for a defendant and his legal team, agreeing to counts being left to ‘lie on the file’ may be a less attractive option than it appears.

David

Criminal lifestyle in confiscation

image 75Frequently a convicted defendant will be shocked by reading that he has a ‘criminal lifestyle’. The assertion may be found in a prosecutor’s s16 statement in confiscation proceedings under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 in England and Wales.  The defendant may think he is being accused of being a career criminal – or even a gangster like Al Capone.  The reality is rather different.

But who has a ‘criminal lifestyle’? What are the implications of a ‘criminal lifestyle’?

 

Who has a ‘criminal lifestyle’?

A defendant has a ‘criminal lifestyle’ for confiscation purposes if at least one of the three alternative criteria of s75 PoCA 2002 are met.  But he does not have a ‘criminal lifestyle’ if none of the criteria are met.  So what are these three criteria – or alternative routes to a finding that he has a ‘criminal lifestyle’?

Route 1

The first is that the defendant has been convicted of one (or more) of the offences listed in schedule 2 PoCA 2002. Many of these offences are undeniably serious, such as arms trafficking and directing terrorism.  It should come as no surprise that drug trafficking offences are also listed (although the scope of these offences may be wider than is sometimes appreciated – the defendant who has a friend’s cannabis in his pocket may be convicted of possession of a controlled drug with intent to supply).

The scheduled offences also include some offences which are less self-evidently serious

The scheduled offences also include some offences which are less self-evidently serious.  A person convicted of selling fake ‘Levi’ jeans at a car boot sale, for example, may not be severely punished for that in the Magistrates’ Court but will have a ‘criminal lifestyle’ in confiscation proceedings as his offence features in schedule 2.  (Note that Schedule 2 has been subject to various amendments since PoCA 2002 was enacted.)

In relation to the schedule 2 offences just one conviction, however small the amount involved, is sufficient to establish that the defendant has a ‘criminal lifestyle’.

Route 2

this route is intended to deal with a person who has committed a number of offences

The second route involves multiple offences of any type or types providing that the total relevant benefit obtained by the defendant from the offences (including any offences ‘taken into consideration’ in sentencing for any of the relevant offences) is at least £5,000 and either he has been convicted in the same court proceedings of at least four offences from which he has obtained a benefit, or in the six years prior to being charged with the offence currently before the court he has been convicted on at least two separate occasions of offences from which he has obtained a benefit.

So this route is intended to deal with a person who has committed a number of offences – for example a person who has been convicted of multiple thefts.

Route 3

covers a person who has been convicted of an offence carried out over a period of at least six months

The third route covers a person who has been convicted of an offence of any type carried out over a period of at least six months from which he has obtained a benefit of at least £5,000 (including any benefit from other offences ‘taken into consideration’ in sentencing for the relevant offence).

So, for example, a person convicted of receiving state benefits to which he is not entitled over a period of at least six months who obtains at least £5,000 as a result of failing to notify the authorities of a change in his circumstances will have a ‘criminal lifestyle’ – even though he will have been convicted of only a single offence.

 

In some cases the Magistrates’ Court will deal with the offence itself – but confiscation proceedings are always conducted in the Crown Court and the Magistrates will send the matter on to the Crown Court to deal with that aspect of sentencing.

 

(This article deals with the law in England and Wales.  Similar rules apply in Scotland and Northern Ireland but with some important differences.)

 

What are the implications of a ‘criminal lifestyle’?

In the confiscation proceedings perhaps the most important effect of a ‘criminal lifestyle’ is that the statutory assumptions of s10 PoCA 2002 are triggered.  When assessing the defendant’s ‘benefit’ for confiscation purposes in a ‘criminal lifestyle’ case the prosecutor will typically investigate money and assets which have passed through the defendant’s hands or come under his control since the ‘relevant day’.  The ‘relevant day’ is normally the day six years before the day on which the defendant was charged with the offence of which he has been convicted.

In effect anything the defendant has had at any time since the ‘relevant day’ is assumed to be proceeds of crime

The prosecutor may in effect assume that anything the defendant has had at any time since the ‘relevant day’ is proceeds of crime (sometimes referred to as the defendant’s benefit from his assumed general criminal conduct).  It is then for the defendant (and his legal team, possibly with the assistance of a forensic accountant such as myself) to satisfy the court that those monies or assets are in fact not proceeds of crime, for example by showing that money has come from legitimate earnings.

There are other implications of a finding of a ‘criminal lifestyle’, for example in relation to gifts made by the defendant since the ‘relevant day’, but there is not space in this article to go into further details.

Other articles on this blog deal with other aspects of confiscation in more detail.

David

Civil recovery under PoCA 2002 & the acquitted defendant

Under Part 5 Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 the Crown can pursue civil claims in respect of ‘recoverable property’ and can seek the forfeiture of ‘cash’.  Both of these terms have specific meanings in this context.

‘Recoverable property’ is defined by sections 304 – 310, but the essence is that it is proceeds of crime (or, as the legislation puts it, property obtained through unlawful conduct) and property representing the proceeds of crime.  So if I steal a valuable painting that painting is ‘recoverable property’.  If I then sell the stolen painting the money or asset which I obtain from the sale is ‘recoverable property’.

‘Cash’ is defined in s289(6) and (7).  It includes not only notes and coins but also cheques, traveller’s cheques, bankers’ drafts and bearer shares (but not bank balances).

These are civil – not criminal – proceedings and the standard of proof is ‘the balance of probabilities’

The key point in proceedings under Part 5 is that the Crown do not have to show that anyone has been convicted of any criminal offence in order to succeed.  (The civil recovery provisions of Part 5 of the Act are quite different from the confiscation provisions of Part 2 – which DO require that a person has been convicted of an offence.)  Nor do the Crown have to show that the person from whom the asset is being taken is himself the perpetrator of an offence, he may simply be holding an asset which was obtained by the criminal conduct of someone else (although a bona fide purchaser for value is protected).  These are civil – not criminal – proceedings and the standard of proof is ‘the balance of probabilities’, see s241(3).

The Crown do not even have to identify a specific offence by which the money or asset was obtained.  (In civil recovery proceedings the Crown need not allege the commission of any specific criminal offence but must specify the kind or kinds of unlawful conduct involved.)

Indeed, in relation to cash the Crown may succeed simply by showing that the cash was intended for use in a future crime (s298(2)).

But, apart from that, what the Crown do have to do is satisfy the Court, on the balance of probabilities, that the money or asset in question has been derived from criminal conduct (by somebody who may, or may not, be identified).  In the case of ‘cash’ the Magistrates’ Court may then order the cash to be forfeit to the Crown.  In relation to other assets the High Court (in England and Wales) may order the property to be vested in a civil trustee who will realise the property for the benefit of the enforcement authority (for example SOCA, the SFO or the CPS).

If a defendant has been acquitted of a crime can an asset or cash believed to have been derived from that crime be subject to civil recovery

This raises an interesting technical question.  If a defendant has been acquitted of a crime (meaning that it has not been proved to the criminal standard – ‘beyond reasonable doubt’) can an asset or cash believed to have been derived from that crime be subject to civil recovery (since the lower standard of ‘the balance of probabilities’ applies in civil recovery proceedings)?

You may remember the notorious case of OJ Simpson in the United States.  Mr Simpson was acquitted of the murders of Nicole Brown and Ronald Goldman, but was subsequently ordered by a civil court to pay substantial damages to the Goldman family as he was (in the civil court) held to be liable for Mr Goldman’s ‘wrongful death’.

Let’s consider the case of Peter who has been acquitted of mortgage fraud.  Can the Crown now commence civil recovery proceedings against the house he purchased with the mortgage?

Or the case of Gwen who has been acquitted of ‘possession of criminal property’ in relation to cash of £30,000 which the police found and seized when they searched her home.  Can that cash now be subject to forfeiture in the Magistrates’ Court?

It seems to have been the view of the (then) government when PoCA 2002 was being debated in the Houses of Parliament that civil recovery proceedings could be pursued in these circumstances.  In the House of Lords Lord Goldsmith, speaking for the government, said on 13 May 2002, “We certainly do not accept that, where a criminal case has not resulted in a conviction, civil recovery action should automatically be barred”.  Later he added, “I do not shrink from the fact that . . . evidence is available in the civil process which would satisfy a court, even though it did not satisfy the criminal process”.

But the UK has brought into effect the European Convention on Human Rights, by virtue of the Human Rights Act 1998.  The Convention Rights are set out in Schedule 1 to the Act.  Article 6(2), reproduced in the Schedule, says simply, “Everyone charged with a criminal offence shall be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law”.

But if a person has been acquitted of an offence in the criminal courts can it be right for a civil court to proceed on the basis that actually he is guilty of that same offence?

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has answered that question with a firm, “No”.

In the Scottish case of Scottish Ministers v Doig, reflecting a number of ECHR judgments, the court put it this way (at para 24):

“It is perhaps not immediately obvious as a matter of language that article 6(2) could ever be said to apply to proceedings in which a person is not charged with a criminal offence. It is nevertheless clear from decisions of the European Court of Human Rights that article 6(2) may be said to apply, and be said to be infringed, in the course of proceedings which are not criminal in nature but which follow an acquittal in criminal proceedings. In particular a clear strand of authority suggests (a) that article 6(2) would apply if the later proceedings can be said to be sufficiently linked (in particular by law and practice) as to be the consequence, and to some extent a concomitant, of the criminal proceedings in which the person was acquitted, and (b) that the article would be infringed in these later proceedings if it can be said that the court casts doubt on the soundness of the earlier acquittal.”

More bluntly in the case of Geerings v The Netherlands the ECHR held (at para 49):

following a final acquittal, even the voicing of suspicions regarding an accused’s innocence is no longer admissible

“following a final acquittal, even the voicing of suspicions regarding an accused’s innocence is no longer admissible”.

It has to be said however that the UK Supreme Court has expressed disquiet on this issue.  In its judgment in Gale v SOCA [2011] UKSC 49 Lord Phillips said (at para 44), “If confiscation proceedings do not involve a criminal charge, but are subject to the civil standard of proof, I see no reason in principle why confiscation should not be based on evidence that satisfies the civil standard, notwithstanding that it has proved insufficiently compelling to found a conviction on application of the criminal standard”.  Although he refers to “confiscation” it may be that Lord Phillips has civil recovery proceedings rather than confiscation proceedings particularly in mind here.

However the European Court judgments apply where there is a close link between the civil and criminal cases, so that the civil proceedings “constitute a consequence and the concomitant of the criminal proceedings”.  The Supreme Court found no such link in the case of Mr & Mrs Gale.

The principle might be summarised as – one court cannot treat a person as guilty (even on a balance of probabilities) of an offence of which he has previously been acquitted in another court.

But where does leave Peter and Gwen?

Peter purchased a house with the aid of a mortgage and has been acquitted of mortgage fraud.  In these circumstances I cannot see that the Crown can pursue civil recovery proceedings in respect of the house (which Peter has acquired as a bona fide purchaser for value).

Gwen has been acquitted of ‘possession of criminal property’ in relation to cash found in her home.  I would suggest her position is rather different.  Suppose the facts of her defence were that the money in question had been passed to Gwen to look after by her friend Alice.  Unknown to Gwen, Alice had obtained the money by drug trafficking, but Gwen neither knew nor suspected that the monies were tainted by criminality.

On that basis Gwen would be properly acquitted of ‘possession of criminal property’ but the cash itself would still be proceeds of a crime (Alice’s drug trafficking).  So the cash could, I would suggest, be subject to civil recovery proceedings without casting any shadow of doubt on Gwen’s acquittal.

It seems to me that there are three sets of circumstances in which civil recovery could properly proceed:

  1. where the acquitted defendant lacked the mens rea or actus reus for the offence of which he was acquitted but that nevertheless the money or asset concerned is recoverable property (having been derived from an offence committed by someone else) which is able to be traced into the hands of the acquitted defendant;
  2. where the money or asset concerned has been derived from a different offence committed by the defendant (i.e. an offence of which he has not been acquitted); or
  3. where (in the case of cash) it is liable to forfeiture as property intended for use in a future crime.

depending upon the circumstances, it may, or may not, be permissible for civil recovery proceedings to be pursued in relation to money or an asset held by an acquitted defendant

In short, depending upon the circumstances, it may, or may not, be permissible for civil recovery proceedings to be pursued in relation to money or an asset held by an acquitted defendant.

For obvious reasons it is preferable for the defendant’s guilt or innocence to be determined in the criminal courts before any cash forfeiture or civil recovery proceedings are concluded (as noted in Harrison, R (on the application of) v Birmingham Magistrates’ Court [2011] EWCA Civ 332).

(Note: This article refers to civil recovery in England and Wales under the provisions of Part 5 of PoCA, the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.)

David

Calamitous consequence of a failure to notify HMRC

Should one feel sorry for Gareth Edward Steed?

Mr Steed engaged in what the Crown Court judge described as “moonlighting” – legitimate trading which he failed to declare for tax.  Indeed it seems he was not on HMRC’s ‘radar’ at all.  He received no tax returns and he failed to notify HMRC of his chargeability to tax.

It seems that he was a ‘grafter’ prepared to do anything legitimate to make money – whether that involved buying and selling second hand cars, undertaking building work, or whatever.  Perhaps he also was engaged in some rather less legitimate ‘business’ too.

somehow he was ‘rumbled’

But somehow he was ‘rumbled’.  Ultimately he was charged with three counts of tax evasion.  As often happens in criminal cases there were clearly some sort of discussions between the two sides before the matter came to court.  As a result the original three charges were dropped and one new charge was introduced – to which Mr Steed pleaded guilty.

The charge was one of common-law ‘cheat’ in that between 1 April 2003 and 31 December 2004 Mr Steed failed “to submit declarations of tax due including the proceeds derived from the sale of vehicles, furniture and tools together with that from building work”.

Mr Steed accepted that, as a result, a tax liability of at least £3,558 had arisen for 2002/03 which had escaped self-assessment.

But that was not the end of Mr Steed’s troubles because, following his conviction for ‘cheat’ HMRC pursued confiscation proceedings.

They argued that he had a ‘criminal lifestyle’ for confiscation purposes on the basis that he had committed an offence over at least 6 months from which he had gained a benefit of at least £5,000 (s75 PoCA 2002).  In that connection HMRC pointed out that had a tax return been submitted for 2002/03 it would have triggered not only payment of £3,558 for 2002/03 but also a payment on account for the following year.  In consequence the amount involved exceeded £5,000.

Applying the ‘criminal lifestyle’ assumptions the judge found that Mr Steed was unable to produce evidence to rebut the statutory assumptions

The Crown Court judge agreed.  Applying the ‘criminal lifestyle’ assumptions the judge found that Mr Steed was unable to produce evidence to rebut the statutory assumptions that amounts expended by him and assets held by him had been obtained in consequence of unspecified general criminal conduct on his part.  He made a confiscation order against Mr Steed for £707,200 (with a four year prison sentence in default of payment by the due date).

That sum was Mr Steed’s ‘available amount’, which is normally calculated to be the value of the defendant’s gross assets less any liabilities secured on them (such as mortgages).

The Crown Court judge also formed the view that Mr Steed had probably been engaged in other criminal activity too.  He said, “It may be that the defendant . . . would not be convicted on the criminal standard of all the matters to which I have referred. It is a question of viewing an overall picture and the conclusion I come to is that the overall picture supports the contention that it is more likely than not that he was involved in criminal conduct over and above the Count to which he pleaded guilty”.  He referred to “money-laundering, drug-dealing, the possession of goods bearing false trademarks with a view to sale, the evasion of duty and benefit fraud”.

Mr Steed appealed.  The Court of Appeal in a decision published on 1 February 2011 upheld the confiscation order and dismissed the appeal – Steed v R [2011] EWCA Crim 75.

In particular the Court of Appeal recognised that the proceeds derived from legitimate trading (such as sales of used cars) were not themselves benefits of criminal conduct.  Rather the benefit consists of the tax evaded.

The Court of Appeal accepted that “where a trader evades tax and proves, on the balance of probabilities, that his assets and expenditure derived from legitimate trading on which he paid no tax then the trader will have rebutted the statutory assumptions”.  In that event the only benefit remaining for confiscation would be an amount equal to the tax evaded.

the appellant was unable to establish on the balance of probability the extent to which the sources of his assets and expenditure were legitimate

But crucially it also noted that the Crown Court judge had found that “the appellant was unable to establish on the balance of probability the extent to which the sources of his assets and expenditure were legitimate and the extent to which they were illegitimate. Since he was unable to prove what proportion was legitimate the consequence was that in relation to any given asset or item of expenditure he could not prove that the property was not held by him as a result of his general criminal conduct”.

It followed that he was unable to rebut the statutory assumptions in relation to monies he had expended and assets which he held.

So the financial consequences of Mr Steed’s failure to notify chargeability to tax have been rather more serious than he may have anticipated – almost 200 times more serious!

David