Tag Archives: criminal lifestyle

What we look for in a s22 PoCA 2002 statement

Prosecution applications under s22 to require a further payment from the convicted defendant are becoming more and more common.

A financial investigator or officer will normally file a s22 witness statement in support of the application. What do we look for in that s22 statement?

The prosecutor’s s22 statement

Rule 33.16 of the Criminal Procedure Rules 2015 addresses such an application.  This simply says that the application must be in writing and may be supported by a witness statement.  But the Rule does not prescribe the content of that statement.

I would suggest that it would be best practice for the statement to:

  • Include an explanation of the history of the case, the current financial investigation and its findings, and the prosecutor’s proposals for variation of the confiscation order, and
  • Take the court through the steps required under s22 to vary the order.

Hopefully the author of the s22 statement will demonstrate a good understanding of the legislation, the difference between the concepts of the “available amount” and the “amount required to be paid”, and the impact of changes in the value of money on the figures.

Ideally appended to the s22 statement should be copies of:

  • The original s16 statement(s)
  • The original confiscation order and supporting schedule 5050A of available amount, and any later variations to these
  • The new evidence relied on, such as bank statements or Land Registry documents and property valuations
  • Numerical schedules in support of the figures in the s22 statement,
  • A copy of any current restraint order, and
  • A draft of the proposed court order varying the confiscation order.

The author of the s22 statement will have had the opportunity to collect information using the investigation powers of Part 8 PoCA 2002 and under information request clauses in any restraint order which has been obtained as a precursor to the s22 application.  Since the prosecution are making the application it does not seem unreasonable to me to ask that they present the evidence required to support it.

Poor quality s22 statements

However in my experience s22 statements are of poor quality, fail to take the court through the necessary steps to vary the order and confuse the defendant’s “available amount” (which depends only upon the assets he has today, liabilities secured on those assets, and any ‘tainted gifts’ he has made in the past) with the “amount required to be paid” (which is the total of the amount(s) previously required to be paid and the additional amount to be required to be paid under the proposed variation).

Where a s22 variation is proposed the prosecutor is requesting an increased “amount required to be paid” – which will in most cases be in excess of the defendant’s “available amount”.

Angela, Bernard and Cyril

Some worked examples will make the position clearer.

Consider Angela, Bernard and Cyril.  Let’s assume (to make life easier) that, although there is no connection between them, each of them has suffered a very similar fate.  So in each case:

  • They have been convicted of possession of controlled drugs with intent to supply, a ‘criminal lifestyle’ offence
  • Each of them was charged on 15 August 2007, convicted on 27 November 2008, and made subject to a confiscation order on 21 April 2009
  • On 21 April 2009 each of them was found to have a benefit of £400,000 and an available amount of £100,000, and was the subject of a confiscation order made that day requiring payment of £100,000
  • None of them had any benefit jointly obtained with another person
  • Each of them paid £100,000 on 7 October 2009
  • There have been no variations to the confiscation orders since 21 April 2009 and no other confiscation proceedings against them
  • A s22 application is being made now (July 2019)
  • The latest published CPIH figure is that for May 2019.

But each of them now is in a different financial position:

  • Angela’s mother died and has left her £500,000 which she has in a bank account.  She has no other assets and no secured liabilities
  • Bernard owns a mortgaged property in which there is £120,000 of equity and has £30,000 in the bank.  He has no other assets or secured liabilities
  • Cyril has £70,000 in a bank account.  He has no other assets and no secured liabilities
  • None of them have made any ‘tainted gifts’ since 16 August 2001 (the ‘relevant day’).

What applications under s22 should the prosecution make in each case?

Let us assume that the prosecutor considers it would be “just” for the court to increase the amount required to be paid to the maximum amount possible under s22 in the circumstances.

We know from the Office for National Statistics that the CPIH stood at 87.5 in April 2009, 88.4 in October 2009 and 107.9 in May 2019 (the most recent figure we have).

Angela’s s22 variation

Angela’s available amount is £500,000.  That is the result of the ‘new calculation’ under s22(3).

Her available amount in April 2009 was £100,000, that is the ‘relevant amount’ for s22(8).  If we uplift that for CPIH changes since April 2009, in accordance with s22(7), that becomes £123,314.28.

Clearly £500,000 exceeds £123,314.28 so the ‘trigger’ condition of s22(4) is satisfied and the court can vary the order.

The total benefit was £400,000 in April 2009.  Using CPIH we uplift that to an equivalent of £493,257.14.  That is the maximum amount that can be required to be paid under s22(4)(b).

Assuming the court varies the order so that £493,257.14 becomes “the amount required to be paid”, of which Angela paid £100,000 in October 2009, she could be required to pay a further £393,257.14.

However the court may consider it “just” to uplift the £100,000 paid by Angela in October 2009 using CPIH, which gives £122,058.82.

This would mean that the court order would be that the amount required to be paid is £493,257.14 of which Angela has in effect paid £122,058.82, meaning she would be required to pay a further £371,198.32.

Bernard’s s22 variation

Bernard’s available amount is £150,000.  That is the result of the ‘new calculation’ under s22(3).

Clearly £150,000 exceeds £123,314.28 so the ‘trigger’ condition of s22(4) is satisfied and the court can vary the order.

The prosecutor will ask the the court to vary the order so that £250,000 becomes the “amount required to be paid”, of which Bernard paid £100,000 in October 2009  so, if the court agrees, he would be required to pay a further £150,000.

The £250,000 required to be paid is clearly less than Bernard’s total benefit for the purposes of s22(4)(b) – or more precisely,  £272,058.82 does not exceed £493,257.14  – so there is no s22(4)(b) bar to requiring Bernard to pay a further £150,000.

Cyril’s s22 variation

Cyril’s available amount is £70,000.  That is the result of the ‘new calculation’ under s22(3).

Clearly £70,000 does not exceed £123,314.28 so the ‘trigger’ condition of s22(4) is not satisfied and the court cannot vary the confiscation order under s22 in Cyril’s case.

(In practice many prosecutors would apply to the court for a variation in a case such as Cyril’s.  As far as I am aware there is no binding legal precedent yet on a situation such as this.)

Key mistakes made by prosecutors

In my experience the key mistakes made by prosecutors in preparing s22 statements are:

  • Failing to give proper consideration to the detailed provisions of s22
  • Failing to consider the impact of the changing value of money
  • Misdescribing the “amount required to be paid” as the “available amount”, and
  • Failing to append relevant documents and schedules to the s22 statement.

In consequence the prosecution can fail to assist the court to apply the correct test and come to a proper conclusion.

It then falls to the defence legal team, assisted where appropriate by forensic accountants such as ourselves, to provide the court with the information it needs under section 22.

Of course the defence legal team will also seek to persuade the court that it would not be “just” to vary the confiscation order in accordance with the prosecutor’s application – but that’s a subject for another time!

Contacting us

Our contact details are here.

David

(Note: This article applies to confiscation proceedings 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 confiscation proceedings 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.)

Seeing the crescent – or the whole moon?

Crescent moonHow should a forensic accountant approach a confiscation case? Should he (or she) focus on the benefit and available amount asserted in the prosecutor’s s16 PoCA 2002 statement – or consider the wider aspects of the proceedings? Should he study the bright crescent, or the whole of the moon?

The prosecutor’s s16 statement

The s16 statement may have been written by a financial investigator who has been involved in the case before and during the trial and who will bring to his s16 statement his knowledge of the circumstances of the case, the indictment and the judge’s sentencing remarks.  That can mean that the benefit in the s16 statement fairly and properly reflects the situation of the convicted defendant.

However, in my experience this is often not the case, particularly where there has been more than one defendant convicted at trial.  Sometimes the author of the s16 statement adopts a one-size-fits-all approach to the confiscation – going overboard with ‘cut and paste’ to speed up the production of multiple s16 statements.

But confiscation is very much focused on each single defendant.

The forensic accountant

The forensic accountant who is provided only with the s16 statement and its appendices, may be (at that stage) unaware of important features of the specific charges of which this defendant was convicted and relevant details of his unique role in the offending.

Obtaining copies of the indictment and perhaps the judge’s sentencing remarks, or the prosecution opening, may provide information of key relevance to benefit which is not to be found in the s16 statement.

So a little digging by the forensic accountant may bear fruit.

Conspiracy

This is particularly so in conspiracy cases where the s16 statement may blithely treat all convicted defendants as having jointly obtained the full benefit derived from the conspiracy.  But did the evidence at trial support that view?  The judge’s sentencing remarks may throw some light on this, perhaps indicating a more limited role for a particular defendant involving a more restricted benefit for him.

Tax evasion

Another fertile area of challenge surrounds convictions for offences such as “being knowingly concerned in the fraudulent evasion of tax”.  This is an example of an area in which there may be a disconnect between the criminal conduct and the benefit derived from it.

Consider the case of a company director who deliberately submits false VAT returns for his company to enable it to retain or obtain the funds it needs to continue a legitimate trade.  The director may be quite properly convicted of the offence.  In these circumstances the s16 statement is likely to assert that he has benefited to the extent of the tax evaded.  But has he?  Undoubtedly the initial beneficiary will have been the company rather than the director.

The disconnect between offending and benefit

As long ago as 2008, in the case of CPS v Jennings [2008] UKHL 29 the court authoritatively stated,  “A person’s acts may contribute significantly to property … being obtained without his obtaining it. But … a person benefits from an offence if he obtains property as a result of or in connection with its commission, and his benefit is the value of the property so obtained, which must be read as meaning ‘obtained by him’.”

That is as true today as it was then.

Whether, and to what extent, the director has himself obtained a benefit demands careful investigation, it is by no means a foregone conclusion.

There are many more examples in which establishing the benefit obtained by a particular defendant demands a wider consideration of the circumstances of the case and the essential principles of confiscation law and practice.

Ideally these issues will have been identified and addressed by the defendant’s legal team and set out in detailed instructions to the forensic accountant.

But in practice this is often not the case for one reason or another.

Criminal lifestyle

Importantly the issue of whether a defendant has a ‘criminal lifestyle’ – triggering the draconian statutory assumptions – may depend upon whether he has obtained from his offending a total benefit of at least £5,000 (in England and Wales).

So not only may the benefit derived from the defendant’s ‘particular criminal conduct’ be important in itself, it may be the key to establishing – or not – a much larger benefit figure.

The danger of focusing only on the s16 statement is that the forensic accountant may fail to appreciate the importance of relevant matters which are not referred to within that statement.

Contacting us

Our contact details are here.

David

(Note: This article applies to confiscation proceedings 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 confiscation proceedings 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.)

Were the Court of Appeal right? A s22 POCA variation case

Scales of justiceA recent Court of Appeal decision on a s22 PoCA 2002 variation gives some food for thought.
The nub of the case presented to the Court concerned the Crown Court judge’s interventions in the cross-examination of a defence witness.  On appeal it was suggested that the judge had gone too far and had effectively become a second prosecution counsel.

But for me the more interesting issues lay elsewhere.

The defendant’s history

The defendant’s history was not in dispute. He had twice been the subject of a confiscation order under PoCA 2002.

On 24 August 2007 Carl O’Flaherty and another person were in a vehicle stopped by police.  The vehicle was searched and 20 small bags and one large bag of cannabis were found.  Mr O’Flaherty’s home was searched and cash contaminated with cannabis was found there.  The defendant pleaded guilty to possession of the cannabis in the vehicle with intent to supply.

On 1 November 2010 a confiscation order was made.  The benefit figure was £30,350.20 and the defendant’s available amount at that time was found to be £5,135.00.  He was ordered to pay £5,135.00.  This was paid in full.

Subsequently in February 2011 it was discovered that Mr O’Flaherty and others had loaded cash onto a Thomas Cook Cash Passport Account throughout 2010 and 2011 in order to launder money.  On 18 January 2013 he was convicted of conspiracy to convert, transfer and remove from England and Wales criminal property.

On 20 December 2013 Mr O’Flaherty was made the subject of a confiscation order comprising benefit of £27,556.06 and available amount of £871.51. This led to a confiscation order for £871.51.  This was paid in part.  At the time of the s22 hearing £120.00 remained outstanding.

In 2016 the Crown identified a residential property held in Mr O’Flaherty’s name.  A restraint order was obtained and an application was made for variation under s22 PoCA 2002.

The s22 hearing

At a hearing on 5 December 2016 the Crown argued that Mr O’Flaherty held a 100% equitable interest in the residential property, which had an agreed value of £65,000, and sought variation of both confiscation orders to require payment of additional amounts and provide new default sentences.

Mr O’Flaherty’s case was that he owed money to his employer, Mr Usta, which should be deducted from the equity in the property in arriving at his available amount.  Mr O’Flaherty had intended to purchase the property for £43,000 with a mortgage from Santander, but Santander pulled out after their surveyor had inspected the property.

Mr O’Flaherty then approached his employer who lent him £30,000 on the understanding that he would be repaid £40,000 after six months (when Mr O’Flaherty expected to have sold the property for £65,000).  There was no written loan agreement or legal charge document.

In the event the property sale did not go through as planned after the restraint order had been obtained.

Mr Usta and Mr O’Flaherty both provided written witness statements and gave oral evidence at the s22 hearing.

It appears that no documentary evidence was put before the Crown Court to confirm the original involvement of Santander, the payment of £30,000 from Mr Usta to the defendant, or the defendant’s employment with Mr Usta (of which apparently HMRC had no record).  Nothing had been filed at the Land Registry concerning Mr Usta’s interest in the property.

The Crown Court judge accepted the prosecution’s submissions, rejected the evidence of the defendant and Mr Usta, and varied both confiscation orders as requested by the Crown.

Mr O’Flaherty appealed, R v O’Flaherty [2018] EWCA Crim 2828.

The issue raised in the appeal

The issue raised at the appeal concerned the judge’s treatment of Mr Usta at the hearing.

When examined in chief Mr Usta had simply confirmed his written statement, setting out that he had lent the defendant £30,000 and expected £40,000 in return, to be true.

The Crown indicated it had no questions for Mr Usta in cross-examination.

Unusually, the judge then asked Mr Usta a series of questions.  The judge was polite, but sceptical.  He asked for clarification of the terms of the loan, why there had been no agreement in writing and no involvement of a solicitor.  The judge also enquired about the lack of evidence of the defendant being employed by Mr Usta and the extent to which Mr Usta was aware of the defendant’s criminal record.

On appeal it was submitted that the judge had acted improperly in challenging the witness on issues which could have been raised by the Crown in cross examination but had not.

The decision on the appeal

The Court of Appeal dismissed Mr O’Flaherty’s appeal (except to the extent that the s22 order was amended to correct a figure which both sides agreed to have been incorrect in the original order).

The Crown Court judge was entitled to efficiently and courteously seek clarification of the defendant’s case and to raise matters with Mr Usta which cried out for challenge.

The Court of Appeal found that the Crown Court judge had exercised considerable self-restraint and simply obtained from Mr Usta confirmation as to what his case was.

The judge’s questions related to matters referred to by Mr Usta in his witness statement.  Had Mr Usta been properly questioned by the prosecution no intervention would have been needed from the judge.  At the end of the judge’s questions he asked counsel for the defendant whether he had questions by way of re-examination and counsel did so.  There was therefore no apparent or real unfairness or bias in the proceedings.

A couple of obvious points

Let’s deal with a couple of obvious points first.

The defence case rested upon the assertion of certain facts, the most fundamental of which was that Mr Usta had lent £30,000 to the defendant – but not even the most basic documentary evidence (the bank statements of the defendant and Mr Usta showing the loan being made) were produced to the court.

A Crown Court deals every day with criminals who tell lies when it suits them.  So supporting evidence is vital.  All the more so when what is being asserted appears unusual.  Whatever relevant documents which could be found should have been produced to the court (in advance of the hearing).

Secondly, to be effective the defendant had to show that he had less than a 100% interest in the property because Mr Usta also had an interest in it.  But it seems that all that was being asserted was that the defendant owed a significant sum of money to Mr Usta.  That, on its own, would not have reduced the defendant’s ‘available amount’ for confiscation purposes (but the agreement of a loan secured on the property would have done).

The standard and burden of proof

It is settled law that at a confiscation hearing the burden is on the defendant to satisfy the court, on the balance of probabilities, that his available amount is less than his benefit.

But what is the position on an application for a variation under s22?

The Court of Appeal held that “The burden of proof was the balance of probabilities and lay with [Mr O’Flaherty]”.

But what does this mean?  I would suggest that what the Court of Appeal meant here was that the Crown had produced evidence sufficient to satisfy the court that the defendant now appeared to have an ‘available amount’ which exceeded the ‘relevant amount’ referred to in s22(8) – which in this case was the ‘available amount’ shown in the original confiscation order.  In that way the Crown had appeared to satisfy the ‘trigger condition’ of s22(4).

That having already been done, the burden of proof was then on the defendant to rebut that or to satisfy the court concerning the amount which it would be ‘just’ to order him to pay (which would normally be based on his current ‘available amount’) to enable the court to vary (or to decline to vary) the confiscation order.

The more interesting issue

The more interesting issue, to me at least, concerns the lack of attention to s8 PoCA 2002 by both the Crown Court (on more than one occasion) and the Court of Appeal.

Looking back at Mr O’Flaherty’s history we can see that the offences of which he was convicted in 2010 (possession of a controlled drug with intent to supply) and 2013 (conspiracy to convert, etc criminal property) were both Schedule 2 ‘criminal lifestyle’ offences.

Section 8 spells out how the court should deal with a defendant who is, for a second time, subject to ‘criminal lifestyle’ confiscation.

In effect the benefit found in the later confiscation order must include the benefit found in the earlier confiscation order, with a deduction for the amount which the defendant has previously been ordered to pay under that first confiscation order (to avoid double counting).

When making the new confiscation order the court also must not recognise any other alleged benefit obtained by the defendant prior to the date of the earlier confiscation order, see R v Chahal & Chahal [2014] EWCA Crim 101.

So in 2013 when making the new confiscation order the Crown Court should have proceeded in the following way.  Firstly, it should have identified all the benefit obtained by the defendant after 1 November 2010 (the date of the first confiscation order).

That would include both the benefit of his particular criminal conduct obtained after that day and the assumed benefit in relation to, for example, property transferred to the defendant after 1 November 2010.  In effect the ‘relevant day’ for the purposes of the s10 PoCA 2002 assumptions would be 1 November 2010, see s10(9).

In respect of benefit obtained by the defendant on or before 1 November 2010 the Crown Court would be obliged, when making the new order, to accept the benefit figure of £30,350.20 in the earlier order as being a correct statement of ALL the benefit obtained by this defendant from his criminal conduct up to that date.

This £30,350.20 should have been included as benefit within the second confiscation order, but subject to a deduction of £5,135.00 (which is the amount which the defendant had been ordered to pay under the original order).

So there would be £25,215.20 to include in Mr O’Flaherty’s benefit as his total benefit obtained up to 1 November 2010, and this should have been included in the benefit figure in the 2013 confiscation order.

The original order would then in effect cease to operate (except in respect of any action to enforce collection of the £5,135.00 previously ordered to be paid).

If subsequently the Crown wished to proceed under s22 it would do so only under the second confiscation order (as the unpaid benefit under the first order would be included within the benefit figure in the second order).

It seems clear that the Crown Court when making the second order in 2013 failed to do this.

When in 2016 the Crown Court considered the s22 application it could, in my view at least, have been argued that in consequence of s8 the 2013 order must be viewed as including ALL the benefit obtained by Mr O’Flaherty up to 20 December 2013.  On that basis it would not be open to the Crown Court to entertain any application under s22 in respect of the first confiscation order.

However there is nothing to suggest that this argument was put at that time or that the Crown Court’s attention was drawn to s8 on this occasion either.

Again when the s22 variation was appealed s8 could have been discussed.  But there is nothing in the Court of Appeal judgment to suggest that s8 was referred to in legal submissions or oral argument before the Court.

Perhaps if it had been the outcome would have been different.

As things have turned out it is difficult to conclude that Mr O’Flaherty has suffered any major injustice.  It might be more accurate to suggest that he has failed to gain the advantage of a peculiarity in confiscation law.

As an aside, it would have been open to the prosecution in 2013, before the second confiscation order was made, to have made an application to the Crown Court under s21 PoCA 2002 to have the benefit figure in the 1 November 2010 confiscation order increased to reflect new information (concerning the money laundering offending which apparently occurred throughout 2010) which had come to light.

Had that been done then the benefit to be included within the second order would have been able to fully reflect Mr O’Flaherty’s benefit obtained up to 1 November 2010.

In my view that would have been the proper way to deal with Mr O’Flaherty’s case.

Contacting us

Our contact details are here.

David

(Note: This article applies to confiscation proceedings 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 confiscation proceedings 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.)

Tainted gifts – valuation and consequences

Tainted giftAllegations of tainted gifts can cause serious problems for a defendant in confiscation proceedings. But what are those problems and how is a ‘tainted gift’ valued? In this second article on tainted gifts I explore these issues.

I have considered what is meant by a tainted gift in an earlier blog post.

The value of a tainted gift

Valuing a tainted gift is not entirely straightforward.  The starting point is that value means ‘market value’, s79 PoCA 2002. It is reasonable to suggest that ‘market value’ means the open market value as between a willing buyer and a willing seller, each of whom is fully informed about the asset.

But the statute goes on to deal specifically with the value of tainted gifts, s81. This says that the value of the tainted gift at the “material time” is the GREATER of (i) the value at the time of the gift (adjusted to take account of later changes in the value of money), or (ii) the value at the “material time”.

The expression “material time” is not defined in s81, but is used in s80 to mean the time when the court makes its decision (in other words the time at which the confiscation order is made or varied). The only sensible interpretation is that “material time” has the same meaning in s81.

So let’s consider a couple of examples.  Suppose a defendant has made a tainted gift of a new car to his wife, some years ago. At the time he purchased the car for £25,000. That is the market value of the car when the gift was made. Today the car, which the wife still has, is worth £15,000.  Then the value of the tainted gift is £25,000 (uplifted for inflation) because that is the greater of the two values.

Take another example, some years ago a defendant bought a house for £300,000 and gave it to his son. That is the market value of the house when the gift was made. Today the house, which the son still has, is worth £400,000. Then the value of the tainted gift is £400,000 because that is the greater of the two values (assuming that when the £300,000 is uplifted for inflation it does not exceed £400,000).

What about assets which go up and down in value, like shares in a listed company? Only two values matter for this purpose – the value at the time the gift is made and the value at the ‘material time’. The court should ignore the value at other times.

What if the gift has now become worthless? Case law tells us that even where the asset gifted no longer has any value the tainted gift will have value if the asset gifted had a value when the gift was made, see R v Johnson [2016] EWCA Crim 10. This again is because the greater value is the one to be adopted by the court.

But what if the recipient of the gift no longer has it, or has only part of it? In this case s81 provides that the court should value any asset which the recipient has which directly or indirectly represents the asset gifted to him.  If he has part of the asset, then what the court will value will be the part which he has plus any other asset which he has which directly or indirectly represents the other part.

Suppose a defendant has a valuable collection of rare postage stamps, which he gives to his daughter.  She keeps some of the stamps, sells some for £10,000 and swaps some of the stamps for some from another collector.  The court will need to know (i) the value of the collection at the time of the gift (uplifted for inflation since the date of the gift), and (ii) the current value of the stamps from the original collection which the daughter still has, plus £10,000 (uplifted for inflation since the date of the sale) for the stamps she sold, plus the current value of the stamps she received from the swaps. The value of the tainted gift will be the greater of (i) or (ii).

Finally let us consider the situation in which the defendant has gifted an asset to someone but there is simply no information before the court as to what has become of that asset since the gift.  In this case the court cannot say whether the recipient still has the asset, or any part of it, or any other asset which represents it. In such a case it appears that the court should simply value the gift at the time it was made (and uplift that for inflation), see R v Box [2018] EWCA Crim 542 at paragraph [7].

 

The effect of a tainted gift on available amount

It is beyond doubt that the value of a tainted gift must be added into the defendant’s ‘available amount’, s9. So the tainted gift increases the defendant’s ‘available amount’ and this may have the effect of increasing the amount the defendant is ordered to pay under the confiscation order.

This will be the case whether or not the defendant is in a position to recover the value of the gift from the recipient, as is underlined in the case of Johnson – to which reference has already been made.

In relation to the court’s power to appoint a receiver, s83 provides that property held by the recipient of a tainted gift is ‘realisable property’ which means that the court can appoint a receiver under s50 with the powers over the recipient’s property set out in s51. These may include power to sell assets belonging to the recipient in order to recover for the court the value of the tainted gift, to assist in satisfying the confiscation order.

Whether the making of a confiscation order with such drastic consequences would be ‘disproportionate’ in the sense referred to in s6(5) will depend upon the facts of the individual case. However such an order would not typically be regarded as disproportionate (even where it would cause hardship) because the main purpose of the legislation is to recover the value of the benefit of the convicted defendant’s criminal conduct and the order would be directed toward that aim.

In these circumstances it would not be necessary for a receiver to identify particular assets of the recipient which were, or represented, the assets gifted by the defendant as all the recipient’s assets are ‘realisable property’.

Where a court was satisfied that the ‘available amount’, including the tainted gift, was truly irrecoverable it may be appropriate for the court to set a lower default sentence, see Johnson at paragraph 31(iii).

 

The effect of a tainted gift on benefit

The effect of a tainted gift on benefit is less clear cut.

Where the defendant has purchased an asset, such as an item of jewellery, and made a gift of that asset then the purchase cost will be ‘expenditure incurred by the defendant’ which may be caught by the expenditure assumption of s10(4). Where the defendant has a ‘criminal lifestyle’ that will lead to an increase in benefit unless the assumption can be rebutted by evidence or the court considers that there would be a serious risk of injustice if the assumption were made. But that is a consequence of purchasing the asset – not a consequence of gifting it.

What about the situation in which a gift is made but no expenditure is incurred by the defendant? This was the situation in the Johnson case referred to above. In that case the defendant had gifted a house which was subject to a mortgage. The defendant considered the house to be worth £140,000 but transferred it to her daughter for only £120,000. She therefore had made a gift of £20,000. The defendant had a ‘criminal lifestyle’ and the gift was made after the ‘relevant day’.

The gift was therefore a tainted gift. But the property had originally been purchased many years earlier for £69,000. The tainted gift comprised part of the appreciation in value of the house. There was no expenditure incurred by the defendant in connection with making this gift.

However it appears that the Crown Court considered that this gift had the effect of increasing both the defendant’s ‘available amount’ and her benefit. The defendant appealed in connection with the increase in her ‘available amount’. The appeal was dismissed.

In the course of the judgment the Court of Appeal said this:

“However, it [the asset] was not alleged to be the proceeds of crime. The asset (equity in the house) had been acquired by the appellant because she held the property while it appreciated in value. There was no evidence that she had bought the house with the proceeds of crime. It was brought into account for the purposes of confiscation because of the criminal lifestyle and tainted gift provisions. The combined effect of these is to treat an asset as proceeds of crime even though it was not. The justification for this is described above. The appellant would not have been able to make a gift of £20,000 if she had not been benefiting from a criminal lifestyle and therefore the Act treats it as if it were the proceeds of crime.”

This suggests that where the prosecution can show that the defendant would not have been able to make the tainted gift if he had not been benefiting from a ‘criminal lifestyle’ the value of the tainted gift may become an element in benefit.

I have to say that I have been unable to find any basis for that in the wording of the legislation. It might also be suggested that, as the Johnson appeal concerned ‘available amount’ rather than benefit, this comment was obiter dictum.

I have not been able to find any other case law, or any statute law, directly on this point. This may be a matter that the courts will revisit at some point in the future.

In other circumstances it would appear that the making of a tainted gift does not, of itself, generate any benefit for the purposes of confiscation. There is no direct reference to a ‘tainted gift’ in the ‘criminal lifestyle’ assumptions of s10 or any other section dealing with the quantification of the benefit obtained by a defendant.

Contacting us

Our contact details are here.

David

(Note: This article applies to confiscation proceedings 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 confiscation proceedings 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 – what is a tainted gift?

Allegations of tainted gifts can cause serious problems for a defendant in confiscation proceedings. But what exactly is a ‘tainted gift’?

 

What is a gift?

In confiscation proceedings the word gift has a wider meaning than in everyday life.  A defendant is treated as making a gift if he transfers an asset to another person and receives either nothing for it or receives in return something whose value is significantly less than the value of that asset, s78 PoCA 2002.

So, for example, if I transfer £100 to you and receive nothing in return, I have made a gift to you.  But I can also make a gift to you if I transfer to you a car worth £20,000 and you pay me only £10,000 for it.

The statute does not contain a complete definition of a “gift”, it only indicates that, for example, a “gift” includes a transfer of an asset at a significant undervalue.

However case law suggests that for there to be a gift there must be (i) transfer of legal and beneficial ownership in an asset, (ii) acceptance of the gift by the donee, (iii)  no intention on the part of the donor that the asset should be returned to him, and (iv) that the transfer be either without consideration or at a significant undervalue, see Re Somaia [2017] EWHC 2554 (QB) at para [76].

So, for example, if a defendant owns a car and changes the registered owner to someone else (such as his wife or a friend) but continues to use the car as his own, then it could be argued that there has been no gift as the defendant is still in reality the owner of the car.  To put this in more formal words, there may have been a transfer of legal ownership but no transfer of beneficial ownership.

Similarly with a property, the legal title shown at the Land Registry does not necessarily indicate the beneficial ownership of the property.

If the defendant retains beneficial ownership of an asset then there has been no gift of that asset by him.  The same will be true if the defendant transfers an asset to someone to simply look after it for a while and return it to him later, or where the defendant transfers the asset to someone to hold it on trust for him.  In these cases the defendant is to be regarded as still owning the asset in question.

 

What is a tainted gift?

First of all, a tainted gift must be a gift by the defendant.  Once that is established, whether the gift is a tainted gift will in most cases depend solely on the date on which the gift was made.  The nature and provenance of the asset which is gifted is irrelevant in most cases.

The rules are slightly different depending upon whether the defendant has a criminal lifestyle or not.

If the defendant does not have a criminal lifestyle, then a gift by him will be a tainted gift if, and only if, it is a gift made by him on or after the date on which the offence was committed.  If the offence was committed on more than one day, or there is more than one offence, then the earliest day is used, see s77(4) to (7).

(Reference to the offence means the offence for which he is being sentenced in the proceedings which trigger the confiscation, see s6(2) and (9).)

So, for example, consider the case of Peter being sentenced for thefts from his employer which occurred from 5 October 2016 to 9 January 2017.  Peter does not have a criminal lifestyle.  The earliest day is 5 October 2016 and any gift by Peter on or after that day will be a tainted gift.  But any gift made by him before 5 October 2016 is not a tainted gift.

If the defendant does have a criminal lifestyle, then a gift by him will be a tainted gift in one of two circumstances.

Firstly, a gift will be a tainted gift if it was made on or after the ‘relevant day’.  Here the ‘relevant day’ is the first day of the period of six years which ends on the day on which the proceedings were commenced against the defendant which have resulted in conviction for an offence which has triggered the confiscation, see s77(2) and (9).  If there are two or more days, then the earliest one is the ‘relevant day’.

So, for example, consider the case of Jane being sentenced for concealing or converting criminal property which she did on 15 November 2016.  She has no previous convictions.  Jane does have a criminal lifestyle (because her offence is a Schedule 2 offence).  She was charged with the offence on 8 September 2017, which is the day the proceedings against her commenced.  So the ‘relevant day’ in her case is 9 September 2011.  Any gift by Jane on or after 9 September 2011 is a tainted gift.  Any gift made by her before 9 September 2011 is not a tainted gift.

But where a defendant has a criminal lifestyle there is an additional rule.  A gift is also tainted if it was made by the defendant at any time and was of property (a) which was obtained by the defendant as a result of or in connection with his general criminal conduct, or (b) which (in whole or part and whether directly or indirectly) represented in the defendant’s hands property obtained by him as a result of or in connection with his general criminal conduct, see s77(3).

This will rarely be applicable.  It can occur however if a long time elapses between the commission of an offence and the defendant being charged or where a defendant has previous convictions in previous proceedings (because these convictions will form part of his general criminal conduct, see s76(2)).

So, for example, consider the case of Trevor being sentenced for tax evasion from 6 April 2008 to 5 April 2015 from which he has obtained a benefit of £23,500.  Trevor does have a criminal lifestyle (because his offence was committed over a period of at least six months and he has obtained a benefit of at least £5,000).  He was charged with the offence on 27 June 2017, which is the day the proceedings against him commenced.  So the ‘relevant day’ in his case is 28 June 2011.  Any gift by Trevor on or after 28 June 2011 is a tainted gift.  But in addition any earlier gift of an asset which is, or is derived from, benefit of his offending (which as we know commenced prior to 28 June 2011) will also be a tainted gift.

This situation, where the defendant has a criminal lifestyle and his offence, or an earlier offence, occurred or commenced before the ‘relevant day’, is the only circumstance in which the nature and provenance of the asset which is gifted may be relevant to whether there has been a tainted gift.

 

What about spouses?

It is clear that one spouse may make a gift to the other and, in appropriate circumstances, a gift to a spouse is a tainted gift.  But does that mean that day to day sharing of money between spouses can be treated as the making of tainted gifts?

In practice it does not appear that, for example, a husband is regarded as making a gift when his salary is paid into a joint bank account with his wife.

It might be argued that legally there is no gift as, in this example, the husband is free to withdraw all the money in the account himself and so there is an expectation of a return of any ‘gift’.

A more likely explanation may be that prosecutors typically regard this as simply a feature of day to day domestic financial realities for many couples, rather than as examples of gifts being made from one spouse to another.

But what about more substantial and non-recurring gifts?

The case of R v Hayes [2018] EWCA Crim 682 concerned a married couple and the home in which they lived.  They married in September 2010.  Prior to their marriage both had had successful careers and well paid employments in Japan.  The husband’s employment came to an end just prior to their wedding.  The couple returned to the UK and the wife became pregnant, giving birth in October 2011.  It appears that neither of them were earning on their return to the UK.

In September 2011 they purchased a property.  The husband funded the entire purchase cost of £1.2m from his own resources, there was no mortgage.  But ownership of the property was placed in their joint names.

The husband and wife lived in the property.  The wife was a full time housewife and mother until returning to work in May 2013.  Until that time the husband paid all the household expenses and regular outgoings.

In July 2013 the husband transferred his half share in the matrimonial home to the wife for £250,000.  He was by that time incurring significant legal fees dealing with a criminal investigation into his conduct between 2006 and 2010.  He had been formally charged in June 2013.

His wife took out a mortgage to enable her to pay him the £250,000.

In October 2016 the property was sold for £1.6m.

The husband was ultimately convicted and was subject to confiscation on the basis that he had a criminal lifestyle.  The relevant day was in June 2007.

The issue arose as to whether he had made tainted gifts to his wife (a) on the purchase of the property in September 2011, and (b) on the sale of his half-share to her for £250,000 in July 2013.

Undoubtedly these events occurred after the ‘relevant day’ – the issue was whether these events were ‘gifts’.

The prosecution did not suggest that any additional gift arose from the husband paying all the household expenses and regular outgoings.

The husband pointed out that his wife had provided unpaid services as a wife and mother and argued that these should be valued and taken into account in determining whether he had made any gifts to her in relation to the ownership of the matrimonial home.

The court held that the husband had made tainted gifts to his wife on both occasions and that, for the purposes of confiscation, no monetary value could be placed on her services as a wife and mother in this case.

The court emphasised that each case is different and that the court needs to undertake an objective and evidence based approach to assertions concerning contributions.  Where the consideration which is asserted to have been provided by the recipient of the property is not in the form of a direct financial contribution, then it is necessary to examine the evidence rigorously and closely to see if the asserted consideration is capable of being assessed as consideration of value and (if it is) to what extent.  Any consideration which is asserted to have been provided must be capable of being ascribed a value in monetary terms and must be attributable to the transaction in question.

 

What are the consequences of a tainted gift?

The valuation of a tainted gift (both when the gift is made and subsequently) and the consequences of a tainted gift in confiscation proceedings are considered in a further blog article Tainted gifts – valuation and consequences.

 

Contacting us

Our contact details are here.

David

(Note: This article applies to confiscation proceedings 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 confiscation proceedings 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 – calculating the inflation uplift

Inflation graphConfiscation legislation in the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 requires the Crown Court when making a confiscation order to take account of changes in the value of money where appropriate.

This article sets out, with a couple of worked examples, the mathematical details of the computations which may be required under s80 PoCA 2002 in relation to a defendant’s benefit.

 

Worked example – Peter

Take the case of Peter who was convicted in May 2013 of an offence of possession of a controlled drug with intent to supply.  Those drugs were seized from him on his arrest in June 2012 and had a value of £100,000.  Peter has a ‘criminal lifestyle’ for confiscation purposes.  He was charged with the offence on 5 January 2013, so the ‘relevant day’ for the purposes of the ‘criminal lifestyle’ assumptions is 6 January 2007.

A s16 PoCA 2002 statement is now being prepared (in January 2015).  The latest information concerning Peter’s financial affairs covers the period to April 2014.  Examination of this indicates that Peter has an assumed benefit from transfers received in the period from January 2007 to April 2014 of £400,000.  For simplicity let’s say that no assumed benefit arises in respect of Peter’s expenditures since January 2007 or his assets held since the date of his conviction.

Before adjustment for changes in the value of money Peter’s benefit for confiscation purposes is £500,000, comprising the £100,000 value of the drugs seized in June 2012 and the £400,000 assumed benefit of transfers received between January 2007 and April 2014.

 

Inflation index

At the time the s16 statement is being finalised the latest available figure for the RPIJ is that for November 2014.

(See the article Confiscation – which inflation index? for an explanation of the use of the RPIJ rather than the Retail Prices Index or any other measure of inflation.)

Figures from the Office for National Statistics show that the RPIJ values were

January 2007 195.1 Date of start of assumed benefit
June 2012 227.1 Date of benefit of actual offence
April 2014 237.4 Date of end of assumed benefit
November 2014 238.3 Latest available index

 

Calculating the uplift

The £100,000 benefit of the offence was obtained in June 2012 when the RPIJ was 227.1.  The latest RPIJ is 238.3 so the uplift is

£100,000 x (238.3 – 227.1) / 227.1    =  £4,932

The £400,000 assumed benefit arose over a period from January 2007 to April 2014.  We could identify the benefit obtained in each month from January 2007 onwards and perform separate uplift calculations for each month.  However in many cases we can get a reasonable approximation of the correct uplift if we take an arithmetic average of the index figures for the start and the end of the period (January 2007 and April 2014) and apply that to the whole of the assumed benefit obtained over that period.

(Note that this method has a tendency to overstate the true inflation uplift, as compared to separate computations undertaken for each month in the period, where the amount of benefit arising is greater towards the end of the period and / or annual inflation rates are lower towards the end of the period.)

The average index figure is

(195.1 + 237.4) / 2  =  216.25

Using that we can calculate the uplift on the £400,000 assumed benefit as

£400,000 x (238.3 – 216.25) / 216.25    =  £40,786

So the total uplift on the entire benefit is £45,718 and Peter’s total benefit figure, adjusted for changes in the value of money, is £545,718.

 

Worked example – Brian

Let’s consider a slightly more complex example.  Suppose Brian’s position is exactly identical to Peter’s except that Brian owns a house, subject to mortgage.

Brian bought the house for £80,000 in September 2000 with the aid of a (legitimately obtained) mortgage of £60,000 (so his equity in it at that time was £20,000).  The house is currently worth £200,000 and the outstanding mortgage currently stands at £30,000.

Brian’s assumed benefit arising from his ownership of the house will be the higher of (A) the current value of his equity in the house and (B) the value of his equity in the house at September 2000 uplifted for subsequent changes in the value of money.

Clearly (A) will be £170,000 (which is the £200,000 current value less the £30,000 currently outstanding mortgage).

To calculate (B) we need the RPIJ index figure for September 2000, which was 169.4.  We can then uplift Brian’s equity in the property in September 2000 (which was £20,000) by changes in the value of money.  The calculation for the uplift is

£20,000 x (238.3 – 169.4) / 169.4    =  £8,135

So (B) is £28,135 (which is the £20,000 original equity uplifted for inflation).

Since (A) is the higher figure Brian’s additional assumed benefit in relation to the house he owns is £170,000.

Brian’s total benefit is therefore £715,718 (including the £545,718 actual and assumed benefit from the drugs seized and transfers received since the ‘relevant day’).

 

Conclusion

Hopefully these detailed worked examples will assist prosecutors to perform, and defendants to check, computations of the effect of changes in the value of money for confiscation purposes.

 

Contacting us

Our contact details are here.

David

(Note: This article applies to confiscation proceedings 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 confiscation proceedings 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 – which inflation index?

RPI v CPI graphConfiscation legislation in the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 requires the Crown Court when making a confiscation order to take account of changes in the value of money where appropriate.  For example s80(2) refers to this in the context of evaluating the ‘benefit’ obtained by the convicted defendant and s22(7) refers to “any change in the value of money” in the context of reconsideration of a confiscation order where a convicted defendant has acquired further assets since the original confiscation order was made.

But the legislation does not spell out how the court is to quantify the “change in the value of money”.  It seems obvious that this should be done using a UK index of inflation – but which one?

I would suggest that there are four potential candidates for the appropriate index – the Retail Prices Index (RPI), the Consumer Prices Index (CPI), and modified versions of these two indices which are known as RPIJ and CPIH.  All of these are published monthly by the Office for National Statistics.  But the figures produced by using these alternative indices may be significantly different.  Which of them is to be preferred?

 

RPI & RPIJ

The Retail Prices Index is perhaps the most well known UK inflation index.  It has been published continuously since 1947.  It forms the basis of certain contractual arrangements and the amounts paid on some investments (such as index-linked gilts).

However in recent years it has been recognised that some of the underlying mathematics in the computation of the RPI is flawed and RPI has fallen out of favour.  Since 2013 RPI has ceased to be formally recognised as a ‘National Statistic’ by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).  The RPI does not satisfy international standards as a measure of inflation.  The ONS continue to publish the RPI however because it remains relevant where it has been written into contracts and investments.

The mathematical flaw in the calculation of RPI causes it to systematically overstate inflation in times of rising prices.  Best practice therefore appears to be not to rely on RPI for the purpose of preparing figures adjusted for changes in the value of money.

In order to address the flaw in the calculation of RPI a revised index, known as RPIJ, is now calculated and published by the ONS.  Unlike RPI, RPIJ is recognised as a ‘National Statistic’ and does satisfy international standards as a measure of inflation.  Figures for RPIJ going back to 1998 have now been published by the ONS.

Because of the different underlying mathematics, in times of rising prices RPIJ will always indicate a lower rate of inflation than RPI.

 

CPI & CPIH

The Consumer Prices Index (CPI) has been published by the ONS for each month from January 1998 onwards.

The CPI was originally developed to address aspects of RPI which were perceived as misleading as a measure of the impact of changing prices on UK consumers.  The CPI does not suffer from the mathematical flaw which affects RPI.

Another significant difference between CPI and RPI (and RPIJ) is that CPI does not reflect housing costs whereas RPI (and RPIJ) do.

However the CPI is formally recognised as a ‘National Statistic’ and is a measure of consumer price inflation produced to international standards and in line with European regulations.   It is recognised as the leading index of inflation in the UK for the purpose of the government’s management of the economy, for example when setting an inflation target.

The lack of any element of housing costs in CPI has caused some concern which has resulted in the publication by the ONS of a further index known as CPIH.  In effect this is an index of consumer prices including an element of housing costs.

But CPIH is still regarded as under development and, as yet, is not formally recognised as a ‘National Statistic’ and it is not accepted as satisfying international standards as a measure of inflation.

Whilst that remains the case it would appear to be not best practice to rely on CPIH for the purpose of preparing figures adjusted for changes in the value of money.

 

Comparative figures – a worked example

Suppose that a convicted defendant who has a ‘criminal lifestyle’ has obtained an actual benefit of his offence in June 2012 of £100,000, was charged in January 2013 and has an assumed benefit of £400,000 between January 2007 and April 2014.  Using each of the four different indices what figure would be calculated for his total benefit?

(When these calculations were undertaken the latest available inflation indices were those for November 2014.  In each case the uplift has been calculated using only the index figures for January 2007, June 2012, April 2014 and November 2014 on the assumption that the base for the uplift of the assumed benefit arising between January 2007 and April 2014 is the arithmetic mean of the index figures for January 2007 and April 2014.)

Clearly without any indexation the benefit would be £500,000.  Using RPI the benefit works out at £556,098.  Under RPIJ it is £545,718.  Based on CPI £548,231 and finally employing CPIH it would be £545,085.  (For more detail on the computations behind these figures see Confiscation – calculating the inflation uplift.)

The overstatement which would be caused by RPI is clearly illustrated by the figures in this example.

As only RPIJ and CPI are formally recognised as ‘National Statistics’ one might expect that the court would (given the option) be likely to prefer one of these two figures.  In this example those two figures are reasonably similar, although the prosecution may prefer CPI whilst the defence would prefer RPIJ.

An independent observer might consider that the CPI carries greater authority than the RPIJ.

 

Case law

In a somewhat confused and confusing judgment the Court of Appeal when asked to examine the use of RPI (rather than CPI or some rather vague alternative) in a confiscation case said this:-

“We reject the invitation of Mr Sutton to provide a definitive ruling as to the competing claims of the RPI and CPI as indices or indeed as to the consideration of any other factor. We have concluded that no material which he has placed before us calls for any consideration or reconsideration of the established practice in the Crown Court in confiscation proceedings of reliance upon the RPI . . . We emphasise this court’s view that consistency and certainty is imperative and for that reason the use of the RPI in our judgment continues to be appropriate.

. . .

We note that a decision has been taken recently by the Serious Fraud Office and the CPS to adopt an improved variant of the RPI, known as the RPIJ in confiscation proceedings in the future. The revised index which meets international standards will result in a slightly lower increase in the change in the value of money.”

R v Shepherd [2014] EWCA Crim 179

So it would appear that the Court of Appeal considers that RPI continues to be appropriate but does not rule out the use of CPI or RPIJ.

 

Conclusions

In my view prosecutors, defendants and courts should not be using the RPI as a basis for calculating changes in the value of money in confiscation cases because the ONS no longer regards RPI as a ‘National Statistic’ fit for purpose as an index of UK inflation.  The UK national statistic for inflation which carries most international approval is the CPI and, in the author’s view at least, the CPI is currently the most appropriate index to adopt as the basis for calculating changes in the value of money in confiscation proceedings.

However if prosecutors are now adopting RPIJ, which like CPI is recognised as a ‘National Statistic’ by the ONS, then neither defendants nor courts are likely to object.  In consequence RPIJ is now likely to become the de facto standard as the basis for calculating changes in the value of money in confiscation proceedings.

 

Contacting us

Our contact details are here.

David

(Note: This article applies to confiscation proceedings 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 confiscation proceedings 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.)

7 key differences between trial & confiscation

Legal booksIn many respects confiscation proceedings exist in a different world from criminal trials.  It is almost as if, like Lewis Carroll’s Alice, we have stepped through a looking glass into a parallel universe.

It is important that lawyers recognise this and adjust their approach to the work accordingly.  This article points up, briefly and in the most general terms, seven key differences between Crown Court trials and confiscation proceedings.

 

1 The question

In a Crown Court trial the key issue is whether the defendant is ‘Guilty‘ or ‘Not Guilty‘ of the offence or offences of which he is charged.

In confiscation proceedings the question is ‘How much?.  The proceedings are concerned primarily with the quantification, in money terms, of the convicted defendant’s ‘benefit‘ and ‘available amount‘ (as defined in Part 2 of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002).

 

2 The standard & burden of proof

In the trial the burden of proof rests upon the prosecution to the ‘criminal standard’.  They have to make the jury ‘sure’ of the guilt of the defendant.

In confiscation proceedings the standard of proof is the ‘civil standard’ – the balance of probabilities – and, in many respects, the burden of proof is on the convicted defendant; particularly in rebutting the statutory s10 assumptions in a ‘criminal lifestyle‘ case and in satisfying the court that the convicted defendant’s ‘available amount‘ is less than his ‘benefit‘.

 

3 The focus & scope of the proceedings

In the trial the focus is on the offence or offences of which the defendant is charged.  In confiscation proceedings the focus is on the convicted defendant under consideration.

Where, as is often the case, in confiscation proceedings the convicted defendant is alleged to have a ‘criminal lifestylethe scope of the proceedings can range far beyond matters relevant to the offence or offences of which he has been convicted.  The entire financial affairs of the convicted defendant over a period of many years may be subject to scrutiny.

Consideration of the convicted defendant’s ‘available amount‘ involves matters unconnected with any offence.

The indictment in a criminal trial may cover a number of co-defendants, but the s16 statement in confiscation proceedings deals only with a single convicted defendant.  A confiscation order reflects the ‘benefit‘ obtained, solely or jointly, and the ‘available amount‘ of only that particular convicted defendant.

 

4 The evidence

In a criminal trial the prosecution may call a number of witnesses who may have, quite literally, witnessed the alleged crime being committed.  The defence may call evidence from the defendant himself.

In confiscation proceedings the prosecution are unlikely to call evidence from anyone other than the financial investigator who is the author of the s16 statement (which sets out the prosecution assertions regarding the convicted defendant’s ‘benefit‘ and ‘available amount‘).  The likelihood is that little or no weight will be given by the court to unsupported oral evidence from the convicted defendant since, by that stage, he has been found guilty and his credibility thereby undermined.

The defence will therefore seek to present other witnesses, perhaps including a forensic accountant expert witness, and documentary evidence in support of the defence assertions.

Evidence which would be inadmissible in the criminal trial may be admissible in confiscation proceedings.

 

5 The decision makers

In a Crown Court trial the key decision of ‘Guilty’ or ‘Not Guilty’ is made by the jury, then in the case of a ‘Guilty’ verdict the sentencing is carried out by the judge.

But in confiscation proceedings there is no jury.  All the decisions are made by the Crown Court judge.  Having said that, in many cases the figures of ‘benefit‘ and ‘available amount‘ are in practice settled by negotiation resulting in an agreement between counsel for prosecution and defence which has been reached outside the courtroom.  The judge will then be invited to make an order in the agreed figures and fix a default sentence.

 

6 The factors in sentencing

In relation to sentencing following trial key factors will often include the nature and gravity of the conduct of the defendant in committing the offence, whether he pleaded guilty, his previous convictions, and his conduct since the offence in terms of showing remorse or making reparation.

In contrast a confiscation order is not strictly speaking regarded as punishment for the offence at all.  So those factors (other than reparation) will have no impact on the confiscation.  A relatively minor offence (in terms of sentencing) might be followed by a very substantial confiscation order, whilst conviction for a relatively serious offence might be followed by a minimal confiscation order.

By way of example, in the case of Waya [2012] UKSC 51 the mortgage fraud offence attracted 80 hours community punishment but the eventual confiscation order was in the very substantial sum of £392,400.

It has been said that confiscation is intended, not to punish the convicted defendant for the crime, but to deprive him of the benefit he has obtained from relevant criminal conduct, up to the limit of his available means.

 

7 Appeals

The prosecution have, with very limited exceptions, no opportunity to appeal the verdict or sentence in a criminal trial.

However prosecution and defence are each permitted to appeal a confiscation order (or a decision to make no confiscation order).

 

Conclusions

Confiscation proceedings are very different from the criminal trial which precedes them. They demand a different approach from instructed lawyers and an extensive examination of financial evidence.  That examination may be assisted by the work of a forensic accountant, particularly where it is alleged that the convicted defendant has a ‘criminal lifestyle‘.

David

(Note: This article applies to confiscation proceedings 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 confiscation proceedings 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 – the basics

photo 123 - copyright David Winch 2014This post aims to be an introduction to the basics of confiscation under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 in England & Wales.  It includes links to more detailed articles dealing with particular elements of confiscation law (shown like this).

A word of warning.  An introduction like this can be broadly correct but cannot cover the full detail of the legislation nor can it cover those unusual circumstances which may be exceptions to the general guidance contained here.

Be warned too that words and phrases used in confiscation often have a specific technical meaning which is not the same as their meaning in everyday English conversation.  That applies particularly to terms such as ‘benefit’, ‘criminal lifestyle’ and ‘available amount’.

 

When does confiscation apply?

Confiscation proceedings can only be commenced when a defendant has been convicted (either in the Crown Court or Magistrates’ Court) of one or more offences from which he has obtained a benefit.  All confiscation proceedings in England & Wales are conducted in the Crown Court in front of a judge but without a jury.

A wide range of offences can form the basis for confiscation proceedings, including offences such as theft, fraud, drugs offences, money laundering and tax evasion. However confiscation orders are not imposed in every case in which a defendant obtains a benefit. In the year to 31 March 2013 approximately 673,000 persons were convicted of an offence (not all of which involved any benefit being obtained) but only 6,392 confiscation orders were imposed.

Confiscation proceedings are initiated by the prosecution.  There are no published criteria specifying when confiscation proceedings will be initiated.  Where the defendant has obtained a benefit from an offence of which he has been convicted and the prosecution ask for confiscation proceedings to be initiated the court has no discretion to refuse.

The legislation is intended to deprive defendants of the benefit they have gained from relevant criminal conduct, whether or not they have retained such benefit, within the limits of their available means.  The benefit gained is the total value of the property or advantage obtained, not the defendant’s net profit after deduction of expenses.

 

The court procedure

Whilst the judge can make a confiscation order at the time of sentencing a convicted defendant, in many cases the judge will at that time simply set a timetable for further steps towards confiscation.

This normally involves firstly a requirement for the defendant to supply detailed information about his financial affairs; secondly the prosecution to provide a report identifying the amount of benefit said to have been obtained by the defendant and (usually) identifying his ‘available amount‘ (this is referred to as the s16 statement); thirdly the defendant is required to respond to the prosecution’s report indicating the extent to which he agrees and disagrees with it; and finally there will be a hearing scheduled which will culminate in the making of the confiscation order.

In practice the initial timetable may be revised if difficulties or delays arise so these steps may take months, or even years, to complete.

Evidence which would be inadmissible at trial may be admitted in confiscation proceedings.

 

The three decisions

Assuming that the defendant has obtained a benefit from an offence of which he has been convicted, the court then has three key decisions to make.

  • Firstly what benefit has the defendant obtained from the offence or offences of which he has been convicted (including any other offences ‘taken into consideration’ when sentencing)?
  • Secondly, if the defendant has a ‘criminal lifestyle‘, what benefit is he to be assumed to have obtained in addition to the benefit obtained from the offence or offences of which he has been convicted?
  • Thirdly what is his ‘available amount‘?

In confiscation proceedings the burden of proof generally rests upon the defendant rather than the prosecutor – particularly in rebutting the statutory assumptions where the defendant has a ‘criminal lifestyle‘ and in satisfying the court that the defendant has an ‘available amount‘ which is less than his ‘benefit’.  In each case the court will make its decision on the basis of the ‘balance of probabilities’, see s6(7) PoCA 2002.

 

Benefit obtained from the offence

The legal position is that a person obtains a benefit from criminal conduct if he obtains ‘property’ (which means an asset of any description) or a pecuniary advantage as a result of or in connection with that criminal conduct, see s76 PoCA 2002.

Sometimes the benefit obtained from the offence is quite obvious.  If I steal £10,000 from your bank account I have obviously obtained a benefit of £10,000.

But in many cases the benefit obtained will be less obvious.  For example if John is a member of a group of people and is convicted of conspiracy to supply controlled drugs there may be a number of issues arising concerning the extent of John’s involvement in the conspiracy and the valuation of the drugs.  If Peter has obtained a mortgage advance dishonestly his benefit will be a proportion of the increase in value of the property since he purchased it.

However the courts will always be looking to the benefit “obtained” – not the benefit “retained”.  Where the court is satisfied that a particular benefit has been obtained jointly by more than one person it will treat each person as having obtained the whole of that benefit – but will place a cap on the overall recovery of jointly obtained benefit from the different defendants.

 

Assumed benefit of criminal lifestyle

In many cases the defendant will be held to have a ‘criminal lifestyle‘ and this will trigger the statutory assumptions set out in s10 PoCA 2002.  The effect may be to increase very substantially the defendant’s total alleged benefit.

These assumptions relate to the defendant’s receipts and payments since the ‘relevant day’ (normally the day six years before the day on which he was charged with the offence) up to the day on which the court makes the confiscation order (but in practice the assumptions are usually applied only up to an earlier date for convenience) and the defendant’s assets held at any time after the date of his conviction (whenever they were first obtained).

A defendant has a ‘criminal lifestyle‘ if the criteria set out in s75 are satisfied, but not otherwise.  The criteria relate to the offence or offences of which the defendant has been convicted – they do not relate to his ‘lifestyle’ in the everyday sense of that word.

It is in ‘criminal lifestyle‘ cases in which the services of a forensic accountant may prove particularly valuable in challenging the prosecutor’s s16 statement.

There is an obvious danger of excessive benefit figures and double counting where the ‘criminal lifestyle‘ assumptions are made.

 

The defendant’s available amount

The defendant’s ‘available amount‘ includes all his assets currently held (with a deduction for liabilities secured on those assets) and the current value of any ‘tainted gifts’ he has made, see s9 and s81 PoCA 2002.

The court will not consider, for the purpose of determining the defendant’s ‘available amount‘, whether those assets which he currently holds were obtained legitimately or not – that does not matter at this stage.

 

The confiscation order

In order to reach its decisions the court may hold a hearing at which oral and written evidence from both sides will be presented.

However in many confiscation cases the prosecution and defence will negotiate agreed figures for ‘benefit’ and ‘available amount‘ prior to the scheduled hearing of oral evidence.  In that event there will be only a brief hearing before the judge at which he will be invited to approve the agreed figures which then become the basis for the confiscation order.

Before finalising the order the court may need to consider whether the application of the statutory assumptions has created a serious risk of injustice and whether the proposed order would be disproportionate and infringe the defendant’s human rights.

Only very rarely will the amount of the confiscation order be limited to the profit arising from the criminal conduct.

The court will normally order the defendant to pay, within a specified period of time, a sum of money equal to the lower of (a) his total benefit and (b) his available amount.

If the court has no information from which it is able to conclude on the balance of probabilities that the defendant has an ‘available amount‘ which is less than his total ‘benefit’ it will make a confiscation order in the amount of the ‘benefit’.

Where the court accepts that the defendant’s ‘available amount‘ is less than his total ‘benefit’ a brief list of the assets which form the defendant’s ‘available amount‘ should be appended to the confiscation order issued by the court.

The court will typically allow up to six months for payment (from 1 June 2015 this is limited to three months as a result of amendments to confiscation law).  The court will also set a default sentence, which is a period of imprisonment the defendant may be required to serve if he does not pay the required sum.

The defendant may subsequently return to court to ask for a six month extension to the time to pay, making a maximum of 12 months in all from the date of the confiscation order (from 1 June 2015 this is limited to a further three months making six months in all from the date of the confiscation order).

Interest is charged on any amount which remains outstanding after the due date for payment, s12.

 

Appeals

Either prosecution or defence may appeal against the confiscation order.  Appeal is to the Court of Appeal (Criminal Division) and ultimately to the Supreme Court.  An appeal ought to be initiated within 28 days of the confiscation order but late appeals may be heard in some circumstances.

 

Subsequent events

Where a confiscation order has been made in the amount of the defendant’s ‘available amount‘ and subsequent realisation of his assets identified in the confiscation order produces a lesser amount than anticipated, the defendant (or the prosecution) can apply to the court under s23 to have the amount of the defendant’s confiscation order reduced to reflect his revised ‘available amount‘ based on the actual amounts realised.

Where evidence comes to light which was not available to the prosecution at the time of the confiscation hearing which indicates that the defendant’s benefit was greater than that found by the court at that hearing the prosecution can, within 6 years of the date of conviction, apply to the court for the benefit figure to be increased under s20 or s21.

Where a confiscation order has been made in the amount of the defendant’s ‘available amount‘ (which was less than his benefit) the prosecution can apply to the court, at any time, for an order under s22 requiring the defendant to pay a further amount where he has a current ‘available amount‘ which would enable him to satisfy a new order – but he may not be required to pay an amount more than the court believes to be just.  In that sense a confiscation order may be regarded as a ‘life sentence’.

Where only a small balance remains outstanding on a confiscation order the court may discharge the order under s24 or  s25.

Where, following a fresh conviction on a subsequent occasion, a defendant finds himself subject to confiscation proceedings a second time the usual rules may be modified on the second time around.

 

Other confiscation topics

Other confiscation topics, such as restraint orders, the impact of bankruptcy on confiscation and adjustments for changes in the value of money are covered in further articles in this blog.  A full list of confiscation articles is here.

 

Contacting us

Our contact details are here.

David

(Note: This article applies to confiscation proceedings 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 confiscation proceedings 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.)

A confiscation case study – the career fraudster

Books - copyright David Winch 2014On 16 June 2014 the Court of Appeal in London heard the appeal of Mr Sam Ernest against a confiscation order in the sum of £308,380 made against him at Kingston-upon-Thames Crown Court.  The Appeal Court judgment R v Ernest [2014] EWCA Crim 1312 makes interesting reading.

Mr Ernest purported to run a business as an events organiser.  He would claim to have contacts from whom he could obtain sought-after tickets to popular high profile events, such as Wimbledon, the London Olympics, rock concerts or film festivals, in return for money.

Mr Ernest sometimes provided the tickets for which he had been paid, but often he would not.  When tickets were not provided he would usually promise refunds – on some occasions refunds were given, but on others they were not.

 

The victims

His victims were in the main either wealthy people or organisations who could afford to pay substantial sums of money for prestige events, or men whom he had befriended or women with whom he entered into relationships.

One woman with whom he was having a relationship got a party of 18 people together, some from the USA, to attend events at the London Olympics.  She paid almost £4,000 to Mr Ernest.  He continued to promise that the tickets would arrive right up until after her friends had arrived in the UK.

In total Mr Ernest defrauded his victims of over £48,000.

 

The police investigation

Mr Ernest’s activities had first been reported to the police in 2009, but they took no action at that stage.  It was not until 2012, when a special team of police officers were investigating fraud associated with tickets for the London Olympics, that attention was focused on his activities.

On discovering that the police wished to speak to him, Mr Ernest prevaricated and would not agree to attend for interview.  No doubt this was in part because he was a United States citizen who had entered the UK on a six month tourist visa in 2005 and was an illegal over-stayer. His passport had expired in 2010.

However in December 2012 Mr Ernest pleaded guilty to 17 counts of fraud and was sentenced to 4 years imprisonment.  Confiscation proceedings followed.

 

The confiscation proceedings

Mr Ernest was subject to confiscation proceedings on the basis that he had a ‘criminal lifestyle‘ having been convicted in the same proceedings of more than 3 offences from which he had obtained a benefit and had, in aggregate, obtained a benefit of at least £5,000, s75 Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.

The Appeal Court judgment does not, of course, give a full history of the confiscation proceedings.  We do not know what was in the prosecution’s s16 statement or in Mr Ernest’s response.  We do know, however, that the confiscation went to a full hearing in the Crown Court which heard evidence from a Detective Constable Knowles and from Mr Ernest.

 

The prosecution assertions

DC Knowles referred to bank accounts held by a Ms Barbara Howell which had apparently been used by Mr Ernest (and by Ms Howell for legitimate purposes).  There was also a bank account in the name of J Bailey Morgan which apparently Mr Ernest controlled.  DC Knowles considered the movements on these bank accounts since the ‘relevant day’, which it was agreed was 29 August 2006 (six years prior to the date on which Mr Ernest had been charged).

DC Knowles calculated the amount of money in these accounts paid in by known victims together with all of the unexplained credits to the accounts, that is all the monies deposited during the relevant period other than those which represented Ms Howell’s legitimate earnings and funds. This figure came to £209,980. This figure included sums specifically identified as being monies paid into that account by persons identified as victims of Mr Ernest’s activities.

The prosecution invited the court to assume all these sums credited to the various bank accounts to be benefit of Mr Ernest’s general criminal conduct pursuant to s10(2).  Presumably to avoid risk of double counting the prosecution did not seek to assert, as benefit of particular criminal conduct, any additional benefit of the 17 offences of which Mr Ernest had been convicted.

However the prosecution did assert that a further assumed benefit arose, under s10(4), in respect of Mr Ernest’s day to day living expenses over the period since the ‘relevant day’.  These were estimated at £16,400 per year for 6 years, so £98,400 in total.  The prosecution accepted that to some extent Mr Ernest had been financially supported over this period by a succession of girlfriends but contended that, even so, he would have incurred this £98,400 expenditure himself.

In consequence, the prosecution’s total benefit figure was £308,380.  The prosecution apparently did not accept that Mr Ernest’s ‘available amount’ would be less than his benefit.

 

The defence evidence

Mr Ernest asserted that on at least some occasions he had supplied tickets for which he had been paid and on other occasions he had made refunds to customers.  So it would not be correct, in his view, to treat the entirety of the sums banked as benefit.  He also asserted that he had no assets available and no hidden assets.

However the defence produced no books and records of the business and no report of a forensic accountant, nor did the defence produce documentary evidence of Mr Ernest’s current ‘available amount’.  The defence relied upon the oral evidence of Mr Ernest.

 

The judgment in the Crown Court

The Crown Court judge entirely rejected the oral evidence of Mr Ernest.  He was, the judge concluded, a “career fraudster” who had used the bank accounts of others and had produced no documents in support of his oral evidence.  The judge concluded that he was a dishonest man who had lied repeatedly under oath.

The judge accepted the benefit figure of £308,380 asserted by the prosecution and found that the defendant had not discharged the burden upon him to show that his ‘available amount’ was less than his benefit.

Accordingly he ordered Mr Ernest to pay £308,380 within 6 months, with a default sentence of 3 years consecutive to the prison term he was already serving.

 

The Court of Appeal judgment

On appeal it was argued that the judge should have reduced the benefit figure to reflect legitimate business activities conducted by Mr Ernest where he had provided tickets or had made refunds.  Furthermore Mr Ernest had incurred expenditures in obtaining the tickets which he had supplied.

The Court of Appeal would have none of this.  It noted the absence of evidence in support of the asserted legitimate activities and commented that “the fact that some unidentified proportion of that money might conceivably be referable to some specific (but unidentified) business transaction does not render the making of the assumption incorrect”.

The Court was not prepared to make any reduction in the benefit figure in respect of expenses which Mr Ernest might have incurred.  It regarded the occasional provision of tickets by Mr Ernest as a means of furthering his fraudulent purpose by luring customers to do more business with him.

The £209,980 assumed benefit arising from credits to the bank accounts was therefore upheld.

But the Court of Appeal did accept that the bank statements showed expenditures by Mr Ernest on his living costs.  These expenditures had therefore been met from monies already included in assumed benefit.  This undermined the prosecution’s assertion that Mr Ernest would have incurred £98,400 of living expenditure funded entirely by additional assumed criminal conduct.  There was no other suitable figure before the court, so this head of benefit was omitted on appeal.

In consequence the benefit figure was reduced to £209,980.  The court ordered Mr Ernest to pay this lower figure and reduced the default sentence to 2 years 6 months.

 

Commentary

One doesn’t know whether in this case the defence had instructed a forensic accountant or not.  It is possible that a forensic accountant’s report had been obtained but had not been disclosed as part of the defence evidence (perhaps for good reason!).

However it should come as no surprise to find a Crown Court judge entirely rejecting the unsupported oral evidence of a convicted defendant.  Possibly if a forensic accountant had given evidence in the Crown Court confiscation hearing the judge might have accepted that the defendant, having incurred the expenses shown on the bank accounts, would not have had an ‘available amount’ equal to the total of his assumed benefit.  Such a conclusion would have been consistent with the Court of Appeal decision in McIntosh & Marsden v R [2011] EWCA Crim 1501.

In the event this defendant seems destined to serve his default sentence in due course.

David

(Note: This article applies to confiscation proceedings 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 confiscation proceedings 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.)