Tag Archives: default sentence

Default sentence reduction for part payment

Supreme Court logoOn 24 January 2018 the UK Supreme Court handed down its judgment in R (Gibson) v Secretary of State for Justice [2018] UKSC 2. As a result of this judgment there will be slightly more generous reductions in default sentences to be served where part of the amount due under a confiscation order has been paid. It may be that in its determination of what the statute law actually says the Supreme Court has found that the law in this area is more generous to convicted defendants than parliament had intended it to be.

 

Mr Gibson’s case

Mr Gibson had been made subject to a confiscation order of over £5.4m in March 2000.  He was ordered to pay this within 12 months, with a six year prison term in default.  Perhaps not surprisingly Mr Gibson did not pay the amount in full on time and from March 2001 interest started to be added, at the rate of 8% per annum, on the amount outstanding.

In fact only relatively small amounts were paid under the confiscation order.  By the time the Magistrates’ Court committed Mr Gibson to prison under the default sentence only £90,370 in total had been paid – but the interest added to the amount originally ordered to be paid had resulted in the total amount outstanding rising to over £8.1m.

The original default term had been six years, or 2,190 days.  There was no doubt that Mr Gibson was due some reduction in this because he had paid £90,370 off the order.  But should the reduction be calculated as a proportion of the original amount ordered of £5.4m or as a proportion of the amount now outstanding of £8.1m?

Originally the calculation was made based on the £8.1m.  That resulted in a reduction of 24 days in the default term.  But Mr Gibson wanted the calculation to be based only on the original £5.4m – which instead would result in a reduction of 35 days.  Mr Gibson commenced legal proceedings to get the extra reduction in his default sentence.

The law on the point is not particularly clear.  Mr Gibson originally lost the argument in the Administrative Court.  He appealed to the Court of Appeal – and lost again.  But in January 2018 the Supreme Court decided in Mr Gibson’s favour.  As a result he is entitled to the extra 11 days reduction in his default sentence.

 

The effect of the Supreme Court decision

This decision applies in every case (in England and Wales) in which a default sentence has been activated by the Magistrates’ Court, interest has been added to the amount outstanding, and there needs to be some reduction in the default sentence as a result of part of the confiscation order having been paid.

The effect of the decision is that the reduction for the part payment is to be calculated based on the original amount ordered to be paid when the confiscation order was made – not on the amount (including interest) which is outstanding when the Magistrates’ Court activates the default sentence.

Let’s take a simpler example. John is subject to a confiscation order in the sum of £150,000 with a default sentence of 30 months. He has paid £15,000 under the order, but interest of £5,000 has been added. When John is being committed to prison under the default sentence the balance outstanding is £140,000 (including the interest).

John’s default term will be reduced by 3 months (which is 10% of the original default term) because he has paid £15,000 (which is 10% of the original confiscation order amount of £150,000).  So he will be committed to prison for 27 months (3 months less than the original default term of 30 months).  In practice the default sentence would be calculated in days rather than months.

When calculating the reduction in the default sentence the interest is ignored.

 

Is this what parliament intended?

It seems doubtful that this is what parliament intended.  One effect of this decision appears to be that a default sentence cannot be activated where the remaining balance outstanding is less than the total interest which has been added.

Consider the example of Peter who was originally the subject of a confiscation order for £60,000 with a default sentence of 18 months.  Peter does not pay on time and interest of £5,000 has been added.  The amount outstanding is now £65,000 – but if Peter pays just the original £60,000 off then he cannot be committed to prison under the default sentence, even though the £5,000 interest is still outstanding.  This is because there is a 100% reduction in the default sentence because he has paid 100% of the original amount of the confiscation order.

Of course parliament can change the law by passing new legislation if it wishes.

 

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.)

Challenging a s22 PoCA 2002 confiscation reconsideration

Crown Court judgeThe revisiting of old confiscation orders by prosecutors under section 22 Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 is becoming more frequent.

This blog post considers the provisions of s22 and ways in which prosecution applications under s22 may be challenged by the defendant.

Section 22 is headed “Order made: reconsideration of available amount”.

WARNING – THIS IS A LENGTHY BLOG POST – APPROXIMATELY 3,000 WORDS

  1. Reconsideration of available amount
  2. The legal ‘trigger’
  3. “Makes” v “varies”
  4. Inflation
  5. The burden of proof
  6. What is ‘just’?
  7. The prosecutor’s s22 application and witness statement
  8. Restraint orders and investigation powers
  9. Time limit
  10. Challenges
  11. Default sentence
  12. Due date for payment & interest
  13. Second revisit
  14. Appeals
  15. Conclusion
  16. Contacting us

 

Reconsideration of available amount

Section 22 PoCA 2002 empowers the Crown Court to vary an existing confiscation order made under s6 of the Act.  In effect it allows the prosecution to apply to the court for a further payment to be required from the defendant under an existing confiscation order where his available amount has increased since the original order was made.

This blog article does not consider variations to confiscation orders made under earlier legislation, such as the Criminal Justice Act 1988, Drug Trafficking Act 1994 or Drug Trafficking Offences Act 1986.  Different rules apply under those Acts.

Nor are we considering the position of a person who has a new conviction and a new confiscation order is being made as a result of that.

We are considering the situation of a defendant who was made subject to a confiscation order, perhaps some years ago, at which time the court ruled that he had a figure of benefit which was higher than his available amount.  At that time the court would not have ordered him to pay the full amount of his benefit.  Instead the amount he was then ordered to pay would have been restricted to his available amount at that time.  The figures of the defendant’s benefit, available amount and the amount he was ordered to pay should all be spelled out in the original confiscation order.

Under s22 the prosecutor asks the court to consider the available amount which the defendant has now and to order him to pay a further amount now towards his total benefit.

Let’s consider Jim’s case.  Jim was subject to a confiscation order in September 2008.  That order says that Jim’s benefit was £100,000 and his available amount was £500.  Jim was ordered to pay £500 which he has paid.  Today Jim owns a house with his wife.  The house is worth £200,000 but there is a mortgage of £180,000.  So Jim’s half share is worth £10,000.  Jim also has a car worth £6,000 but no other assets, so Jim’s total available amount today is £16,000.

The prosecution can ask the court under s22 to order Jim to pay a further £16,000 (or some other figure) by making a variation to the confiscation order made in September 2008, requiring a further payment now.

 

The legal ‘trigger’

The legal ‘trigger’ for a s22 variation is in subsection 22(4):-

If the amount found under the new calculation exceeds the relevant amount the court may vary the order by substituting for the amount required to be paid such amount as –

(a) it believes is just, but

(b) does not exceed the amount found as the defendant’s benefit from the conduct concerned“.

The ‘trigger’ is in the first phrase – “If the amount found under the new calculation exceeds the relevant amount“.  What that means is that a s22 variation can only be made where the defendant’s available amount now exceeds the available amount shown on the original confiscation order.

In Jim’s case it obviously does (£16,000 is more than £500) and so the court can consider making an order requiring a further payment from Jim now.

 

“Makes” v “varies”

Under s22 a court may “vary” an existing confiscation order – but it does not “make” a confiscation order.  The legislation does not regard a variation to amount to the ‘making’ of an order.  This can be seen most clearly in the differing provisions regarding default sentence when a court “makes” an order – see s35 – and when a court “varies” an order – see s39.

It follows that an order which has been varied under s22 is an order which was ‘made’ at the time of the original confiscation hearing, not at the time of the variation.

 

Inflation

In these cases we can be looking back at figures determined by the court some years ago.  Because of this s22 recognises the effect of inflation by subsection 22(7) which says:-

In deciding under this section whether one amount exceeds another the court must take account of any change in the value of money.

This is done by using the RPIJ index published by the Office for National Statistics.  [UPDATE: Since the article was written courts have moved on to using CPIH rather than RPIJ for ‘inflation’ uplifts.]

In Jim’s case the confiscation order was made in September 2008 when RPIJ stood at 209.8.  The latest figure (May 2016) is 240.1.

So uplifting Jim’s benefit of £100,000 it becomes equivalent to £114,442 and his original available amount of £500 becomes equivalent to £572 today.

So, strictly speaking, the trigger condition is whether £16,000 exceeds £572 – which of course it does.

The prosecutor will most likely ask the court to vary the original confiscation order so that Jim’s amount to pay is £16,500 – that is the £500 which he has already paid plus a further £16,000 payable now.

The prosecutor will point out that this amount (which when adjusted for changes in the value of money is equivalent to £16,572) is less than Jim’s total benefit (which when adjusted for changes in the value of money is £114,442).

 

The burden of proof

An application under s22 is made by the prosecutor (or an enforcement receiver appointed under s50).  It would appear that the burden of proof is on the applicant to provide information enabling the court to make a “new calculation” of the defendant’s available amount.

This contrasts with the position when the confiscation order was originally made (at which time the burden was on the defendant to show that his available amount was less than his benefit, by virtue of s7).

 

What is ‘just’?

Under s22(4) the court is to vary the amount to be paid to an amount which the court “believes is just.”  What does that mean?

What is ‘just’ does not only mean what is ‘just’ for the defendant.  The concept has regard to the legitimate interests of both sides.

I suggest that part of the process of deciding what is ‘just’ involves looking back at the figure of benefit previously decided by the court and considering whether that figure, in the light of subsequent legal developments, is either faulty because it was based on a misunderstanding of the law (as may have arisen, for example, in a case of mortgage fraud), or is an amount which it would now be considered disproportionate to order the defendant to pay in full (as may be the case, for example, where stolen property has been returned to its owner).

That will involve some detailed reconsideration of the basis on which the original confiscation order was made, which may involve re-examination of the basis of prosecution’s assertions regarding benefit which were set out in the original s16 statement insofar as the court accepted those assertions when making the confiscation order.

Where, in the light of the relevant law as it is understood today, the defendant would not now be ordered to pay an amount based on the whole of the benefit shown in the original confiscation order then, I suggest, it would not be ‘just’ to order a defendant to pay that amount now under s22.

So it is necessary, in my view, to consider the impact of case law such as R v Waya [2012] UKSC 51 (proportionality and confiscation, mortgage fraud), R v Ahmad [2014] UKSC 36  (recovery from co-defendants), R v Harvey [2015] UKSC 73 (VAT and confiscation) and Boyle Transport (Northern Ireland) Ltd v R [2016] EWCA Crim 19 (piercing the corporate veil) on the understanding of confiscation law, when considering an application under s22.

This does not mean that the defendant is appealing against the benefit figure in the original confiscation order.  He is asking the court to consider what it would be ‘just’ for him to be ordered to pay now under s22.

[UPDATE: The case of R v Cole [2018] EWCA Crim 888 (24 April 2018) in the Court of Appeal concerned a s22 application in a mortgage fraud case. The original confiscation order had been made before the Supreme Court decision in Waya and the benefit included the amount of the mortgage advance.  The Court of Appeal restricted the further amount ordered to be paid under s22 in line with what the original benefit figure would have been had a ‘Waya-compliant’ approach been followed when the confiscation order was first made.  In other words the Court of Appeal did take into account the decision in Waya when making the s22 variation.]

More broadly the court appears to have a discretion under s22 to consider what amount, in all the circumstances, it believes it would be ‘just’ for the defendant to be ordered to pay.

The Court of Appeal has held in the case of Padda v R [2013] EWCA Crim 2330, “In that context, it is entirely appropriate for a court to consider such matters as the amount outstanding, the additional amount which might now be available for a further payment, the length of time since the original confiscation order was made, the impact on the Defendant of any further payment contemplated and indeed any other consideration which might properly be thought to affect the justice of the case.

When the court is considering a variation to a confiscation order under s22 then – once the trigger condition has been satisfied – the court may order the defendant to pay a further amount of any size, large or small, so long as the total which the defendant is required to pay under the confiscation order (adjusted for changes in the value of money) does not exceed the total of his benefit (adjusted for changes in the value of money).

Strictly speaking, the only relevance of the defendant’s current available amount is in relation to determining whether the trigger condition is satisfied.  In practice however the prosecutor is likely to suggest that it would be just for the defendant to be ordered to pay an additional amount which is the lesser of (a) his current available amount, and (b) the maximum which the defendant could be ordered to pay in relation to his total benefit.

 

The prosecutor’s s22 application and witness statement

Section 22 does not make express provision for a prosecutor’s statement in support of an application for a variation of a confiscation order.  There are no express provisions akin to those found in s16.

Equally there are no express provisions akin to sections 17, 18 and 18A requiring statements or information from the defendant or third parties.

Nevertheless the prosecutor (or enforcement receiver) will need to make a written application to the court and the likelihood is that he will append to that a witness statement which will be in some respects similar to a s16 statement.  Rule 33.16 Criminal Procedure Rules 2015 applies to the service of the application and any supporting witness statement.  It is likely that the defendant will want to respond to the application by way of a statement of his own before the court hearing.

 

Restraint orders and investigation powers

The prosecutor is entitled to apply for a restraint order, under s40(6), when a s22 application is to be made or has been made.

Where the court makes a restraint order it may also require the subject of the restraint order to supply information under s41(7) for the purpose of ensuring that the restraint order is effective.

However it appears that the investigation powers under Part 8 of PoCA 2002 are not available to a prosecutor applying for a s22 variation, because a s22 application does not appear to involve a ‘confiscation investigation’ as defined by s341(1).

There could be some debate as to whether a s22 investigation is an investigation into “the extent or whereabouts of realisable property available for satisfying a confiscation order made” in respect of the defendant, referred to in s341(1)(c).  My own view is that “satisfying a confiscation order made” refers to full payment of the amount ordered to be paid under the original confiscation order which has been made, rather than referring to satisfying a variation of that confiscation order which is (perhaps) to be made.  If that is the case, and if the original confiscation order has been paid in full, then the s22 investigation would, in my view at least, not fall within s341(1) with the result that the Part 8 investigation powers would not be available to a financial investigator acting for the prosecutor.

[UPDATE: The Criminal Finances Act 2017 includes – at section 33 – an amendment to s341(1)(c) intended to make the investigation powers of Part 8 available to a prosecutor applying for a s22 variation.  This came into force on 31 January 2018.]

 

Time limit

There is no statutory time limit.  This means that a s22 application may be made many years after the original confiscation order was made.

 

Challenges

A s22 application may be subject to a variety of challenges by the defendant.

The defendant may assert that the trigger condition has not been satisfied.  Take the example of Bert who was subject to a confiscation order made in February 2012.  In that order his benefit was held to be £90,000 and his available amount was £40,000.  Bert was ordered to pay £40,000 which he has paid.  The prosecutor now finds that Bert has £25,000 in a bank account in his sole name.  Bert has no other assets, so his available amount now is £25,000.

The RPIJ in February 2012 was 225.8.  The latest figure (May 2016) is 240.1.

So uplifting Bert’s benefit of £90,000 it becomes equivalent to £95,699 and his original available amount of £40,000 becomes equivalent to £42,533 today.

So, strictly speaking the trigger condition is whether £25,000 exceeds £42,533 – which of course it does not.

It follows that the trigger condition is not satisfied and the court should not order Bert to pay a further amount now under s22.

A second area of challenge concerns the defendant’s available amount.  Consider Charles who, according to Land Registry records, is the sole legal owner of Rose Cottage.  The prosecutor values Rose Cottage at £250,000.  There is an outstanding mortgage of £150,000.  The prosecutor therefore asserts that Charles has an available amount of £100,000.

Charles may challenge this on the basis that he is not the sole beneficial owner of Rose Cottage and that the current value of Rose Cottage is less than £250,000.  That challenge may have a bearing on whether the trigger condition is satisfied and on the value of Charles’ current available amount – with obvious implications for any amount which Charles may be ordered to pay now as a result of the s22 application.

A third area of challenge concerns what might loosely be described as ‘change of law’.  In 2005 Peter was convicted of mortgage fraud in that he had purchased a house with a mortgage of £100,000 which he had obtained by giving false information on his mortgage application.  Peter was subject to confiscation with a benefit of £100,000 (the amount of the mortgage advance) and an available amount of £20,000.  He was ordered to pay £20,000 which he has paid.  Peter now has £50,000 in a bank account in his sole name but no other assets (so his available amount is £50,000).  He is subject to a s22 application.

Peter may challenge the application on the basis that it would not be ‘just’ to order him to pay £50,000 under s22 as, on a proper and just interpretation of the legal position, he did not ‘obtain’ the mortgage advance and, in any event, the mortgage advance has since been fully repaid to the lender.

The court would then have to consider what further sum, if any, it would be ‘just’ to order Peter to pay under the confiscation order.  That may involve consideration of the price for which Peter ultimately sold the mortgaged property.

A fourth possible area of challenge concerns prosecution delay and Article 6(1) of the European Convention on Human Rights.  Consider the case of Derek who was subject to a confiscation order in 2006.  The court then found he had a benefit of £175,000 and an available amount of £25,000.  He was ordered to pay £25,000 which he has paid.  In 2011 the prosecution discovered that Derek was the sole owner of a property worth £200,000 which he had inherited from his father who died in 2009.  No action was taken by the prosecution at the time.  The file was reviewed in 2016 and an application was then made under s22.

Derek may challenge the application on the basis that it infringes his Article 6(1) rights in that the prosecutor has not brought the s22 application to court “within a reasonable time”.

Fifthly, a s22 application may be challenged on the basis that, taking everything into consideration, it would be simply unjust to order the defendant to make any further payment now – or that it would be unjust to require him to pay the full amount requested by the prosecution.  It might be argued, for example, that it would be just for the defendant to be ordered an amount based on his bank balance but not any part of the value of the equity in his home or the value of assets he uses in his legitimate business.  However such an argument would have to overcome the clear legislative policy in favour of maximising the recovery of the proceeds of crime, even from legitimately acquired assets.

There may be other bases on which a s22 application may be challenged.

 

Default sentence

The provisions of s22 permit the court to vary the amount to be paid under the confiscation order, but do not expressly authorise the court to vary the original default sentence (which will have been based on the original amount payable).

Section 35 authorises the court to set a default sentence when it “makes a confiscation order”, not when it varies one.  However s39 authorises the court to vary the default sentences in the circumstances detailed in that section.

One of the trigger conditions in s39 is that a confiscation order has been varied under s22 and the effect of the variation is to vary the maximum period of a default sentence applicable in relation to the order under s139(4) Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000.

Unfortunately when s35 was amended by s10 Serious Crime Act 2015 corresponding amendments to s39 were not made.  The effect appears to be that the court can vary the default term in accordance with the table of default terms in certain circumstances, but only in accordance with the default terms set out in s139(4) Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000.  These are the default terms which applied to confiscation orders made before 1 June 2015.

In other words, when considering a default term in the context of a s22 variation it is as if the changes to default sentences made by the Serious Crime Act 2015 had never happened.

 

Due date for payment & interest

Strictly speaking, s22 does not authorise the court to vary the due date for payment.  Under s11 this is closely tied to the date on which the confiscation order is “made” (not the date on which it is varied under s22).  Under s12 the defendant must pay interest on any amount which is not paid when it is required to be paid.

However it would appear to be a nonsense to charge interest, backdated to the date on which the confiscation order was originally made, on an additional amount.  Such an interest charge might be considered to infringe the defendant’s rights under Article 1 of the First Protocol of the European Convention on Human Rights.

 

Second revisit

After a confiscation order has been varied under s22 is it possible to revisit it again at a later date?  The short answer is ‘Yes’.

However on a subsequent revisit the ‘trigger’ condition will be interpreted as comparing the defendant’s current available amount with his available amount as determined on the most recent occasion on which an application was made under s22.

 

Appeals

It seems clear that a defendant can appeal against a s22 variation where he considers the variation to have been wrong in principle or manifestly excessive (see Padda referred to above).

On the other hand, it does not appear that a prosecutor is able to appeal against the amount by which the court decides to vary a confiscation order on a s22 application, or a decision not to make any variation – but he is able to make a fresh application under s22 at a later date.

[UPDATE: In the case of R v Mundy [2018] EWCA Crim 105 the Court of Appeal did grant the prosecution leave to appeal a Crown Court decision not to vary a confiscation order under s22.  The basis for that leave to appeal appears to have been s31(1) PoCA 2002 which refers to an appeal where the Crown Court “makes” a confiscation order.  Since the s22 application was a request to “vary” rather than to “make” a confiscation order, it is open to debate whether the prosecution’s appeal was validly made.  In any event the Court of Appeal dismissed the prosecution’s appeal.]

 

Conclusion

There are a number of matters which will need to be carefully considered by prosecution and defence in connection with a prosecutor’s application under s22 for reconsideration of a defendant’s available amount.

 

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.  Appropriate professional advice should be sought in each individual case.)

Confiscation default sentences under the new law

BewareThe law relating to the default sentence which may be triggered by a failure to satisfy on time a confiscation order made under Part 2 Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 has been amended by s10 Serious Crime Act 2015 with effect from 1 June 2015.

The government’s objective in making the changes seems to be to make default sentences more effective in securing payment by both simplifying & increasing the severity of sentencing.

So what has changed & what has not?

 

Comparing the old & new tiers

It might be helpful to compare the old tiers & the new.  There were twelve tiers previously – now there are only four.  The four new tiers include a new break point at £500,000.  The following table shows all the tiers with both the old & new maximum default terms.

Old New Change
An amount not exceeding £200 7 days 6 months Increased
An amount exceeding £200 but not exceeding £500 14 days 6 months Increased
An amount exceeding £500 but not exceeding £1,000 28 days 6 months Increased
An amount exceeding £1,000 but not exceeding £2,500 45 days 6 months Increased
An amount exceeding £2,500 but not exceeding £5,000 3 months 6 months Increased
An amount exceeding £5,000 but not exceeding £10,000 6 months 6 months No change
An amount exceeding £10,000 but not exceeding £20,000 12 months 5 years Increased
An amount exceeding £20,000 but not exceeding £50,000 18 months 5 years Increased
An amount exceeding £50,000 but not exceeding £100,000 2 years 5 years Increased
An amount exceeding £100,000 but not exceeding £250,000 3 years 5 years Increased
An amount exceeding £250,000 but not exceeding £500,000 5 years 5 years No change
An amount exceeding £500,000 but not exceeding £1 million 5 years 7 years Increased
An amount exceeding £1 million 10 years 14 years Increased

It can be seen that the maximum default sentences are increased for all amounts except for amounts exceeding £5,000 but not exceeding £10,000 & amounts exceeding £250,000 but not exceeding £500,000, for which the maximums are unchanged.

Because in each case the specified sentence for each tier is a maximum sentence, any default sentence which may have been set on or after 1 June 2015 using the old tiers will not be an unlawful sentence under the new tiers.

However when operating the new tiers it seems likely that in very many cases Crown Court judges will be minded to fix a higher default sentence than the one which they would have fixed under the old tiers.

In the author’s view this is particularly likely in relation to higher value confiscation orders.  For example a defendant ordered to pay £400,000 will be subject to a statutory maximum of 5 years (which is unchanged).  But whereas previously the ‘5 year tier’ was from £250,000 to £1 million it is now from £250,000 to £500,000.  Therefore a sum of £400,000 is now much closer to the ceiling of the tier and therefore likely to attract a default sentence which is also closer to the ceiling for that tier.

 

Previous case law

The setting of a default term will always be, in the author’s view at least, dependent upon the particular facts relevant to the defendant & the case.  But previous case law has established a principle that the default term will normally be not less than the maximum term applicable to the tier immediately below.

So, for example, under the old tiers one would expect a default term in respect of an amount of £110,000 to be not less than two years (which was the maximum for sums not exceeding £100,000).

That principle may be a less useful guide under the new regime as there are now four tiers rather than twelve.

It remains to be seen how far, if at all, Crown Court judges will have some regard to the old tiers when setting a default sentence under the new regime.

 

Transitional provisions

The amendment made by s10 SCA 2015 came into effect on 1 June 2015 as set out in regulation 3 Serious Crime Act 2015 (Commencement No 1) Regulations 2015.  But neither the 2015 Act nor the commencement regulations tell us anything useful about transitional arrangements for the new four tiers.

Typically confiscation proceedings (in the broadest sense) might pass through nine significant stages en route to activation of the default sentence:-

  • The offence is committed
  • The defendant is charged
  • The defendant is convicted
  • A prosecution s16 statement is issued or amended
  • A confiscation order is made in the Crown Court
  • Default in payment occurs
  • Interest accrues on the outstanding amount
  • The confiscation order might be varied in the Crown Court
  • The defendant is committed to prison by the Magistrates’ Court

But which of these must occur on or after 1 June 2015 for the new regime to be applicable?  The legislation gives no clue.

One approach is to suggest that whenever the Crown Court makes or varies a confiscation order on or after 1 June 2015 the new regime applies.  I understand that to have been the government’s intention & there is a certain logic to it.

An alternative approach is to suggest that the new regime can only apply where the offence is committed on or after 1 June 2015.  The basis of that is an argument that the setting of the default sentence, and the confiscation proceedings in the Crown Court, are an integral part of the sentencing for the offence.  Since legislation cannot retrospectively impose a greater penalty for an offence than was in operation when the offence was committed, the old regime (it is argued) must apply if the offence was committed before 1 June 2015.

Which is the correct approach may become clearer over the coming months.

 

Pro-rata release

Questions have been raised as to whether early release of the defendant from his default sentence on the basis of part-payment still operates.  The short answer appears to be “Yes”.

Pro-rata release for part payment applies by virtue of a rather complex chain of statute law from s35(2) PoCA 2002 to s140(3) Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000 to s79(2) Magistrates’ Court Act 1980.  That chain of legislation is unaffected by the changes made by the Serious Crime Act 2015.

This means that, for example, a defendant who is given a 2 year default sentence in respect of an amount of £100,000 will have his sentence effectively reduced to one year if he makes payment which reduces the amount outstanding to £50,000.

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

 

Early release on licence

Similarly – but with one important exception – early release from a default sentence at the half-way stage on licence under s258 Criminal Justice Act 2003 continues to apply.

The exception is that the early release provision is disapplied where “the sum in question” exceeds £10m, see s10(3) SCA 2015.  It appears that “the sum in question” refers to the amount ordered to be paid by the confiscation order or any variation of that order, rather than to the amount currently remaining unpaid under the order (taking into account interest accrued & payments made).  In a sense therefore this provision creates a further tier of default sentence in respect of orders for sums in excess of £10m.

This disapplication of early release in respect of sums exceeding £10m applies where the default occurs on or after 1 June 2015 and so can apply where a confiscation order was made prior to the implementation of the new regime, see s86(2) SCA 2015.

 

Variation of the confiscation order

Application may be made in various circumstances by the defendant or by the prosecution to vary the confiscation order, for example where the available amount proves inadequate (s23), where new assets come to light (s22), or where accrued interest has increased the amount outstanding & the prosecution wish the court to consider increasing the default sentence (although in practice such applications are understood to have been rare).

 

Impact on future proceedings

It might be considered that the increased severity of default sentences under the new regime could have an impact upon the way that prosecutors pursue & settle confiscation proceedings.

For example it may prove to be the case that prosecutors will be less willing to settle confiscation proceedings by compromise agreement, or more willing to pursue assertions of ‘tainted gifts’ or ‘hidden assets’, in the hopes that heavier default sentences may strengthen their hand in negotiations prior to the making of an order & in persuading defendants (& perhaps their families or third parties) to disgorge assets to satisfy an order which has been made.

Similarly prosecutors might have greater expectation of reward from revisiting older PoCA 2002 confiscation orders & pursuing s22 applications.

 

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.)

Interest on an unpaid confiscation order

8 per cent roadsignWhen a confiscation order is made in the Crown Court under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 the order will specify the amount to be paid & the due date for payment.

Section 11 PoCA 2002, as originally enacted, envisages the whole amount becoming due by the same date which will be not later than six months after the date of the order.  But there is scope for that date to be postponed, on further application to the court, to a date not later than 12 months after the date of the order.

The Serious Crime Act 2015 (on 1 June 2015) substituted a new section 11 which expressly permits the amount payable to fall due by instalments due by different dates, each of which is to be not later than three months after the date of the order.  But there is scope for those dates to be postponed, on further application to the court, to new dates not later than six months after the date of the order.

An application for a further postponement must be made (but not necessarily heard) before the initial period expires.

No further postponement of the due dates is possible beyond the limits set out above.

 

Interest

If any amount payable is not paid by the due date then interest is added under s12 (which is correspondingly amended by s5 Serious Crime Act 2015).  Interest is calculated on the amount which is overdue. Interest is charged at the rate applicable to civil court judgments under s17 Judgments Act 1838, which is currently 8% per annum.  That interest rate is not changed frequently – it was last amended in 1993.

So, for example, where there is an overdue outstanding amount of £150,000 interest of £1,000 per month will be added to that.

But interest is chargeable only for periods after the due date for payment.  So the effect of a postponement is not only to delay any enforcement proceedings and the possible imposition of a default sentence but also to delay the date from which interest starts to run.

 

Effect on default sentence

Interest can have an impact on the default sentence.  An illustrative example may make this clear.

[UPDATE: Note this section of the article was updated on 25 January 2018 to reflect a decision by the UK Supreme Court.]

John is subject to a confiscation order in the sum of £150,000 with a default sentence of 30 months.  He has paid £15,000 under the order, but interest of £5,000 has been added.  When John is being committed to prison under the default sentence the balance outstanding is £140,000 (including the interest) and the default term will be 27 months.  This is because £135,000 (the original £150,000 less the amount paid to date of £15,000) is 90% of £150,000 and 90% of 30 months is 27 months.  (In practice the interest will have been calculated up to the day when the Notice of the Enforcement Hearing was issued and the default sentence would be calculated in days rather than months.)

The relevant case law is R (Gibson) v Secretary of State for Justice [2018] UKSC 2.

However interest will not normally increase the default term beyond the figure originally set by the court.

So, for example, Peter is subject to a confiscation order in the sum of £400,000 with a default sentence of 48 months.  He has paid £25,000 under the order, but interest of £34,000 has been added.  When Peter is being committed to prison under the default sentence the balance outstanding is £409,000 but Peter’s maximum default term will be unchanged at 48 months.  Peter’s actual default term will be reduced in proportion to his £25,000 payment and the £400,000 amount originally ordered to be paid (so will be reduced by 3 months).

The prosecution may apply to the Crown Court to have a default sentence increased to reflect added interest – but this is very rare in practice.

 

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.)

Serious Crime Act 2015 amendments to confiscation law

ER 1 sigThe Serious Crime Act 2015 has received the Royal Assent.  The new Act amends the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 in relation to confiscation (and makes numerous other amendments to criminal law).

The changes referred to in this article came into force on 1 June 2015 (see reg 3 Serious Crime Act 2015 (Commencement No. 1) Regulations 2015) except where otherwise noted.

 

Proportionality

One relatively late amendment to the Act was to introduce into statute law, by an addition to s6(5) PoCA 2002, the proportionality requirement identified by the Supreme Court in R v Waya [2012] UKSC 51.  The words “Paragraph (b) applies only if, or to the extent that, it would not be disproportionate to require the defendant to pay the recoverable amount” have been added to that subsection.

However there is no amendment to reflect the more recent Supreme Court decision in R v Ahmad [2014] UKSC 36 concerning double recovery of jointly obtained benefit.

 

Major reforms

The major reforms fall into six areas: – restraint orders; money belonging to a person subject to a confiscation order; determination of third party interests in assets; time to pay; default sentence for non-payment and other powers to ensure compliance; and powers of investigation.

This article deals with the reforms to confiscation law applicable in England & Wales.  The Act also introduces amendments to the confiscation law operating in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

 

Restraint orders

As noted in my article “Restraint orders under PoCA 2002“, under the old law the applicant for the restraint order had to show that he had reasonable cause to believe that a benefit had been obtained from criminal conduct, s40(2).  Now s11 of the new Act amends s40(2) so that an applicant is only be required to show that there are reasonable grounds to suspect that a benefit has been obtained from criminal conduct.  That obviously is a lesser hurdle for the applicant.

But interestingly the Act does not amend s69(2) which forms the basis of the view that ordinarily a restraint order should be made only if there is genuinely a risk that assets will be dissipated.  That approach has itself militated against the early obtaining of a restraint order in some cases.

Additional changes to sections 40 to 42 of the 2002 Act in relation to restraint orders have been made in regard to: (a) the prosecution making reports to the court on the progress of a criminal investigation where a restraint order has been made on that basis; (b) the continuation of a restraint order where a conviction is quashed and a re-trial is ordered; and (c) restrictions on foreign travel by a person subject to a restraint order.  Further changes (which were included in the Policing and Crime Act 2009) relating to: (i) outstanding legal aid contributions due from the subject of a restraint order; and (ii) the retention of seized property (inserting a new section 41A), have also been brought into effect on 1 June 2015.

 

Money belonging to a person subject to a confiscation order

Amendments to s67 & s67A make it easier for a court to order that money held in a bank account (or similar account) should be paid into court where the money belongs to a person subject to a confiscation order, s14.  That applies when the account is in the name of the defendant or where the money has previously been seized by the authorities.

Previously this power could only be exercised where the money was subject to a restraint order and where the period allowed for payment under the confiscation order had elapsed.  These two conditions are omitted under the amendments.

 

Determination of third party interests in assets

Prior to the coming into effect of the new Act a person other than the defendant who claims an interest in property in which the defendant also has an interest, played no part in the confiscation proceedings until the enforcement stage (that is, after the confiscation order had been made).  However the extent of the defendant’s interest in the property (and hence also the extent of the third party’s interest in it) may have had a bearing on the defendant’s benefit (particularly where the ‘criminal lifestyle‘ assumptions have been triggered) and on his available amount.

In consequence at the enforcement stage third party claims on assets might need to be considered by the courts for the first time.  That could have the effect of delaying and, in some cases, frustrating enforcement of the confiscation order.

Under the new Act at the stage of making the confiscation order the Crown Court may make a ruling determining the defendant’s interest in property (in which a third party has, or may have, an interest) and such a determination would be conclusive in most circumstances, s10A PoCA 2002 inserted by s1 of the new Act.  Determinations would be subject to appeal to the Court of Appeal, s3.

In order to allow third party claims to be properly considered, the prosecutor must include in his s16 statement any relevant information known to him & the Crown Court, before making such a determination, would allow third parties to make representations to the court regarding their interests in the property in question.  Amendments are made to sections 16 & 18 PoCA 2002 and a new s18A is introduced by s2 of the new Act.

In the author’s view this change risks creating as many problems as it solves.  It will in many cases increase the complexity of confiscation proceedings.  It carries the risk of Crown Court judges making rulings in matters relating to issues of property law and family law in which they may have little experience.  Confiscation orders may be unjust where third parties realise too late that they ought to have been represented in confiscation proceedings in order to protect their own interests.

Whilst the government apparently anticipates that Crown Courts will exercise this power of determination only in straightforward cases, the author’s view is that an apparently straightforward case may prove to be more complex when further matters come to light after a determination has been made.

This may prove to be the most controversial of the reforms.

[UPDATE:  A more extensive article on s10A determinations may be found HERE.]

 

Time to pay

The new Act has halved the maximum time allowed for payment of a confiscation order and made explicit provision for parts of the total sum ordered to be paid to fall due earlier than other parts, s5.

Prior to 1 June 2015 a Crown Court could initially allow a defendant up to six months to pay.  A further six months, making a maximum of 12 months in all, could be allowed on a further application, s11 (as originally enacted)The new law has reduced the initial period to three months maximum, with a further three months available on application, making a maximum of six months in total.

Courts are also able to provide for earlier payment dates for part of the total sum – for example where the available amount comprises money in a bank account and an interest in a residential property the confiscation order could require payments from the bank account within, say, 14 days of the confiscation order with the balance due three months from the date of the order.

The practical effect of this proposal is to further limit the discretion of Crown Court judges to allow a defendant time to pay the confiscation order, with the result that interest and enforcement action will be triggered more quickly.

The Act substitutes a new s11 in PoCA 2002.

 

Default sentence for non-payment

The provisions applicable prior to 1 June 2015 are dealt with in my article “Confiscation – default sentence“.   The new Act amends s35 PoCA 2002, by s10 of the new Act, so the maximum default sentences will read as follows:

An amount not exceeding £10,000 6 months
An amount exceeding £10,000 but not exceeding £500,000 5 years
An amount exceeding £500,000 but not exceeding £1,000,000 7 years
An amount exceeding £1 million 14 years

Furthermore, where the confiscation order is made for an amount in excess of £10 million the usual provision allowing release at the half-way stage of a sentence will be disapplied.  This means that a person who is the subject of a confiscation order in excess of £10 million may be required to remain in prison for the full 14 years of a default sentence.  (This disapplication of early release applies where the default occurs on or after 1 June 2015 and so may apply to confiscation orders made before the new Act received the Royal Assent, s86(2).)

A fuller article considering the changes to default sentences can be found HERE.

A new power is provided for the Crown Court to make a ‘compliance order’ under s13A PoCA 2002 (subject to appeal under s13B).  These sections are inserted by s7 of the new Act.  A ‘compliance order’ is such order as the court “believes is appropriate for the purpose of ensuring that the confiscation order is effective”.

A compliance order might, for example, restrict a defendant’s ability to travel outside the UK.

 

Powers of investigation

Under previous legislation the investigation powers under Part 8, PoCA 2002 ceased to be available as soon as a confiscation order was made.   The new Act provides that these powers shall remain available in effect until the confiscation order is satisfied, s341 PoCA 2002 is amended by s38 of the new Act.  (Note – this provision came into force in England and Wales on 1 March 2016.)

 

Other changes on 1 June 2015

In addition to the changes being made to confiscation law under Part 2, Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 by the Serious Crime Act 2015, other amendments – made by the Policing & Crime Act 2009 and the Crime & Courts Act 2013 – have been brought into effect on 1 June 2015.  Further details of those changes can be found in a Home Office Circular issued on 22 May 2015.  These changes principally concern the search, seizure & forfeiture of property (including cash), applications to the Crown Court (rather than the High Court) for certain orders in relation to proceeds of crime, and payment of legal aid contributions from restrained funds.  New Codes of Practice were issued in March 2016.

 

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.)

PoCA section 22 – unfit for purpose?

SlipperyThe Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 was a reform and strengthening of UK law designed to strip criminals of the proceeds of crime.  Section 22 allows the Crown to require the court to re-examine the ‘available amount’ of a convicted defendant with a view to increasing the amount he must pay under an existing confiscation order.

On the face of it this enables a convicted defendant to be pursued for money for the rest of his life until he has ‘repaid’ his total ‘benefit’ (uplifted for inflation).

But is s22 so badly drafted that it creates too many problems and uncertainties? Is s22 unfit for purpose?

WARNING – THIS IS A LENGTHY BLOG POST – IN EXCESS OF 3,000 WORDS

  1. Genesis of s22
  2. Context of s22
  3. Case law
  4. Operation of s22
  5. Problems
  6. Suggested solutions

 

Genesis of s22

Prior to the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 there was a provision, originally in s16 Criminal Justice (International Cooperation) Act 1990 and repeated in s16 Drug Trafficking Act 1994, which provided that where a person had been ordered to pay by a confiscation order an amount less than the full value of his proceeds of drug trafficking and his available amount was greater than the amount which he had been ordered to pay (whether it was greater than was thought when the order was made or had subsequently increased) then the court could, on an application by the prosecutor or a receiver, (i) substitute a new amount to be paid (not exceeding his total proceeds from drug trafficking) and (ii) if as a result the maximum default sentence moved into a higher band, increase the default sentence.

This was to be done in a two stage process involving both the High Court and the Crown Court.

There was at the time no equivalent provision in relation to proceeds of non drug-related crime.

Part of the rationale of the new proceeds of crime legislation which became PoCA 2002 was to transfer all confiscation proceedings to the Crown Court and to provide a single confiscation process applicable to all types of crime from which a benefit had been obtained by the offender.

A draft bill was published for consultation in February 2001.  That draft bill contained, as clause 21, a clause very similar to s22 but without subsections (6), (8) & (9).  The draft bill proposed major changes to UK proceeds of crime law including the creation of the Assets Recovery Agency, the streamlining & consolidation of confiscation law, the introduction of civil recovery of the proceeds of crime, sweeping changes to money laundering law and new investigation & taxation powers.

The draft bill ran to 325 clauses.  It would have been surprising had clause 21 attracted much attention during the consultation period.

In October 2001 the Proceeds of Crime Bill, running to 444 clauses, was introduced into the House of Commons.  It included, as clause 23, the clause from the draft bill but with the addition of subsection (6).

When the bill came to be considered in detail by a House of Commons committee as part of the normal legislative process, clause 23 was approved without any discussion whatsoever on 27 November 2001.

In due course the bill passed to the House of Lords.  When the bill was considered in detail there on 22 April 2002 the government added subsections (8) & (9) and made a consequential amendment to the wording of subsection (4) but again there was no debate on the clause.  The amendments made at that stage appear to be directed towards accommodating the possibility that the original confiscation order had already been amended before the court came to apply this clause.

Ultimately clause 23, as amended, became s22 Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.

In that way s22 became law without being subject to any detailed parliamentary scrutiny.

 

Context of s22

Section 22 is one of a series of sections dealing with reconsideration of a confiscation order.

Sections 19 to 21 apply where there is evidence which was not available to the prosecutor when the court originally considered making a confiscation order.  Accordingly the prosecutor may, within 6 years of the defendant’s conviction, require the court to reconsider the original confiscation order.  The sections apply where (i) the court never proceeded under s6 (s19), (ii) the court originally decided that the defendant had obtained no benefit (s20), or (iii) the prosecutor believes that if the court reconsidered the matter it would find a higher figure of benefit (s21).

These sections in effect require the court to re-perform the making of a confiscation order under s6, calculating the defendant’s benefit as if it were doing so at the time that the court originally considered making a confiscation order but taking into account the newly discovered evidence.  However when re-performing the making of the confiscation order it appears that the court is to take account of the defendant’s current available amount.

For that reason when an application is being made for reconsideration of benefit under sections 19 to 21 it is not necessary to make a simultaneous application for reconsideration of available amount under s22.

When sections 19 to 21 operate the prosecutor and the defendant are, in effect, subject to the provisions of sections 16 to 18 which require statements of relevant financial information to be prepared and served (see s26).

So the procedure under sections 19 to 21 is akin to a complete re-run of the confiscation proceedings.

On the other hand sections 23 to 25 (and section 25A when it comes into effect) are intended to deal with events which have occurred after the confiscation order was made and, in particular, to address a diminution in the defendant’s available amount.

Section 23 permits the court to reduce the figure of the defendant’s available amount to reflect an inadequacy in his available amount which has become apparent (for example where assets have been sold but have realised less than the amount anticipated).  Sections 24 & 25 (and s25A) permit the court to discharge a confiscation order in specified circumstances where it would not be appropriate to pursue a modest remaining amount outstanding.

 

Case law

One might have hoped that, prior to the drafting of s22, there would have been case law on the previous provisions – s16 Criminal Justice (International Cooperation) Act 1990 and s16 Drug Trafficking Act 1994 – which had a somewhat similar purpose.  But there appears to have been only one case of note prior to 2002, R v Tivnan [1998] EWCA Crim 1370.

In January 1992 Mr Tivnan was sentenced to 5 years’ imprisonment for a drug trafficking offence.  A confiscation order was made (the date of the order is not given in the Court of Appeal judgment) by which his benefit was said to be £479,376 and he was ordered to pay £72,481 (presumably his available amount at the time) with two years’ imprisonment in default.  In 1996 the Crown made an application under s16 CJ(IC)A 1994 which resulted in an order that Mr Tivnan pay £479,376 (the full amount of his benefit) within 12 months, with four years’ imprisonment in default.  Mr Tivnan’s appeal against the later order was dismissed.

The judgment does not indicate what transpired between the original and revised orders, so we do not know whether Mr Tivnan had actually paid anything under the original order or whether he served any part of the default sentence under it.  Nor does the judgment give full details of the assets which the court had taken into account in concluding that Mr Tivnan’s available amount had increased in 1996 to a figure in excess of £72,481.

It does appear that the Court of Appeal did take into account assets which had been first acquired by Mr Tivnan after the original confiscation order was made.

It was not until 2012, in the Supreme Court judgment Re Peacock [2012] UKSC 5, that it was finally determined that s16 Drug Trafficking Act 1994 did catch after-acquired property (assets acquired legitimately by the convicted defendant in later life).

The case of Saggar Re Drug Trafficking Act 1994 [2005] EWCA Civ 174 dealt in particular with the passage of time between Mr Saggar’s original arrest in November 1993 (and conviction in September 1995) and the Crown’s application in October 2003 for a revision of his confiscation order.  It was argued that the Crown’s application was in breach of article 6(1) of the European Convention on Human Rights.  The matter was remitted to the Crown Court for further consideration on the facts.

In a recent case under s22 PoCA 2002, Padda v R [2013] EWCA Crim 2330, the defendant had been the subject of a confiscation order in September 2006 which assessed his benefit at £156,226 and his available amount at £9,520.  He was ordered to pay the £9,520 with six months in default.  He paid the £9,520 in full.  In February 2013 as a result of an application by the Crown under s22 he was ordered to pay £74,652 with 12 months in default.

It appears that the £74,652 represented the defendant’s available amount in February 2013 (which of course would exclude monies used to satisfy the original confiscation order) and that the effect was that the defendant was required to pay both the £9,520 originally paid and the further sum of £74,652.  The order was upheld on appeal.

 

Operation of s22

Section 22 requires the Crown Court, on an application by the prosecutor or by an enforcement receiver appointed under s50, to perform a new calculation of the defendant’s current available amount.  If the new calculation produces a figure in excess of the ‘relevant amount’ the court may vary the amount to be paid under the confiscation order.

The ‘relevant amount’ is the amount previously determined to be the defendant’s available amount, adjusted for changes in the value of money, s22(7) & (8).

The variation to be made by the court is made “by substituting for the amount required to be paid such amount as it believes is just but does not exceed the amount found as the defendant’s benefit”, s22(4).

For this purpose the “amount found as the defendant’s benefit” is the amount previously determined to be the his benefit, but adjusted for changes in the value of money, s22(7) & (9)Section 22 does not expressly incorporate any reconsideration of the defendant’s benefit beyond an inflation uplift.

Potentially confusingly, by subsection (5)(b), in deciding what is just the court must have regard to any order which falls within s13(3) and has been made against the defendant in respect of the offence concerned and has not already been taken into account by the court in deciding what is the free property held by him for the purposes of s9 (calculation of available amount).  Subsection 13(3) refers, amongst other things, to “any order involving payment by the defendant”.

But it seems that subsection (5)(b) is not intended to direct attention to the original confiscation order since similar wording appears, for example, in s19 (where no confiscation order has been made).

So s22 does not require the making of the original confiscation order to be effectively re-performed (in the way that sections 19 to 21 do).  It does not refer back to the machinery of s6.  Instead it permits the court in appropriate circumstances to vary the original confiscation order by amending the amount to be paid under it.

Where sections 19 to 21 deal with reconsideration following the discovery of new evidence relevant to the state of affairs when the original confiscation order was made, and sections 23 to 25 deal with reconsideration in consequence of events occurring after the original confiscation order was made, section 22 (unwisely perhaps) attempts to deal with both types of reconsideration.

 

Problems

I suggest the drafting of s22 leaves a host of unresolved problems.  The section seems to be unclear as to whether it is attempting simply to authorise further action against a person who has been subject to a confiscation order limited to his available amount so that he may be required to pay a specified additional amount, or whether it means to have the entire amount payable specified afresh by the court.

The section appears not to be designed to deal with the defendant who has already paid an amount under the original order.  The section is silent as to that possibility.  Does the “substitution” of a new amount to be paid under s22 expunge the requirement to pay any amount under the original order?  Should an amount which has previously been paid be returned to the defendant?  Presumably not!

The best way of dealing with this may be to regard s22 as permitting the court to vary the original confiscation by requiring an additional payment.  The result may be that the total sum shown as to be paid by the confiscation order exceeds the defendant’s available amount either at the time the confiscation order was made or at the time it was varied (because the amount to be paid could be as much as the aggregate of those two amounts).  However it would seem that s7, which would normally prevent such an occurrence, has no application in s22 proceedings.

The practicalities are rather different where (i) a defendant has retained his original available amount and made no payment, and alternatively where (ii) he has paid an original order in full and subsequently acquired new assets.  But s22 attempts to deal with these two contrasting situations in the same way.  In the second case the ‘trigger’ in subsection (4) – that the defendant’s current available amount exceeds his previous available amount – will arguably be inappropriate and misconceived.  See my earlier blog article ‘Confiscation – after-acquired property‘ for an example of this.

Because, unlike sections 19 to 21, section 22 does not give fresh effect to the principal order making power of s6, it implicitly suggests that the only variation which can be made to the confiscation order is to “substitute” the new amount which must be paid.  The court arguably has no authority under s22 to vary other matters fixed by the original order, for example, the due date for payment (which under the original order may have passed many years earlier).  The significance of the due date for payment is that under s12(1) the defendant “must pay interest”.

In practice courts appear simply to have assumed the authority to set a new date for payment – see, for example, the case of Padda referred to above.

With regard to the default sentence, s39 authorises the court to vary the default sentences in the circumstances detailed in that section.

One of the trigger conditions in s39 is that a confiscation order has been varied under s22 and the effect of the variation is to vary the maximum period applicable in relation to the order under s139(4) Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000.

Unfortunately when s35 (which deals with the default sentence when a court “makes” a confiscation order) was amended by s10 Serious Crime Act 2015 corresponding amendments to s39 (which deals with the default sentence when a court “varies” a confiscation order) were not made.  The effect appears to be that the court can vary the default term in accordance with the table of default terms in certain circumstances, but only in accordance with the default terms set out in s139(4) Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000.  These are the default terms which applied to confiscation orders made before 1 June 2015.

However a problem may arise, I suggest, where a defendant has not paid – and has already served a default sentence.  Can he be required to serve a second default sentence for what may be, at least in part, the same debt?

Because s22 effectively requires the defendant’s benefit to be adjusted to take account of any change in the value of money it is conceivable that a court could order a defendant to pay an amount greater than the figure of benefit shown in his confiscation order.  That would appear anomalous.

Ordinarily in confiscation proceedings the burden is on the defendant to satisfy the court as to his available amount but clearly the provisions of s7 (recoverable amount) are incompatible with s22.  Under s22 that burden of calculating the defendant’s available amount appears to fall on the prosecution.  There appears to be no provision in s22 to deal with a situation in which the prosecution is unable to put a figure on the defendant’s current available amount so that no “new calculation” can be made.

Where a list of assets comprising the defendant’s available amount has been appended to the original confiscation order there is no express power in s22 to amend that list.

There are no time limits in s22, in contrast to the six year time limits in sections 19 to 21.  But it is now accepted that article 6(1) of the European Convention on Human Rights, requiring a hearing within a reasonable time, applies to confiscation proceedings including applications for reconsideration under sections 19 to 22.  Arguably therefore the existing legislation in s22 is incompatible with the Convention.

 

Suggested solutions

No change to s22 is proposed in the Serious Crime Bill currently completing its passage through parliament.

However I would suggest that the best way to deal with these issues would be for parliament to amend PoCA 2002 by repealing the existing s22 and introducing in its place two new sections.

My suggested new s22A would deal with the situation where evidence is discovered which indicates that the defendant may have had, at the time the confiscation order was made, an available amount greater than the figure specified in the original confiscation order.

In these circumstances the prosecutor or a receiver could make application to the court under s22A, within six years of the date of conviction, for a re-performance of the making of the confiscation order, giving effect to sections 6 to 13 with appropriate modifications.  The court would, if satisfied, make a new confiscation order entirely replacing the original confiscation order.  Section 22A would permit the new order to reproduce any requirement to pay specified sums on specified dates which had been contained in the original order (even where those dates preceded the making of the new order) along with any requirement to pay one or more additional sums immediately or on future dates.

My suggested new s22B would deal with the situation where evidence indicates that the defendant may currently have an available amount which may justify a requirement that he pay a further sum of not less than (say) £5,000 in relation to an existing confiscation order.

In these circumstances the prosecutor or a receiver could make application to the court under s22B for an addition to the existing confiscation order requiring the payment, by way of an additional recoverable amount, of one or more further sums on one or more specified dates (and permitting an additional list of assets, reflecting the defendant’s current available amount, to be appended to the order).  The aggregate recoverable amount would not be permitted to exceed the defendant’s benefit, but subject to that the court could order payment of such additional amount as it believed to be just.  An application under s22B would need to be made (i) within two years of sufficient evidence in support of the application coming to the applicant’s knowledge, and (ii) within twenty years of the defendant’s conviction.

Amendments to existing confiscation orders under s22B would apply sections 9, 10A (to be inserted by the Serious Crime Act 2015) and 13 with appropriate modifications.  The court would decide any question arising on the balance of probabilities (the civil standard) in the same way that it does under s6.

Under both my suggested new sections the court would be permitted to (i) increase the benefit figure, but only in respect of changes in the value of money since the court had previously determined the defendant’s benefit, and (ii) set the defendant’s aggregate recoverable amount equal to his benefit where the court was not satisfied that the defendant’s available amount was insufficient to justify that.

Amendments would in consequence be required to some other sections of PoCA 2002.

Section 26(1) would need to be amended to include reference to s22A (effectively applying sections 16 to 18 to applications under s22A).

Section 11 (time to pay) would require amendment to allow time to pay to be related to the date of any reconsideration under the new sections.  In my view it would also be appropriate to allow time to pay to be related to the dates of reconsideration by the Crown Court under existing sections 19 to 21 and on an appeal to the Court of Appeal or Supreme Court.

Legislation already before parliament will amend s11 to expressly provide for payments by instalments.

With regard to default sentences the legislation could be amended to permit separate default sentences to be related to separate instalments, providing always that the aggregate default sentences did not exceed the maximum permitted default sentence for the aggregate amount payable.  The legislation should also provide that the time required to be served in aggregate should be reduced by the proportion which the aggregate amount paid bears to the aggregate amount ordered to be paid.

These suggested amendments to PoCA 2002 would I believe provide a workable basis on which to deal with the issues which are left unresolved by the existing s22.

 

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.   Appropriate professional advice should be sought in each individual case.)

Confiscation – after-acquired property

Money imageUnpaid benefit from an old confiscation order may be pursued by the prosecution under s22 Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 where the original order was made under s6 of the Act.  (A similar provision, differently worded, was included at s16 of the Drug Trafficking Act 1994 in relation to confiscation orders made under that Act.)

But how does s22 PoCA 2002 work and does it achieve the intended result?

 

The wording of s22

The wording of s22 initially appears complex and baffling.  To the best of the author’s knowledge there is no authoritative case law dealing with the detail of some of the provisions of this section.

The section is headed “Order made: reconsideration of available amount“.  It may be assumed that one of the objectives of s22 was to permit prosecutors to follow up benefit on old confiscation orders which the defendant had not previously been ordered to pay in consequence of his limited available amount at the time.

The intention, it may be presumed, was to permit the court, on an application by the prosecutor (or a receiver appointed under the Act), to make a further confiscation order when the convicted defendant had subsequently acquired additional assets (referred to sometimes as “after-acquired property”).  It is this general principle, rather than the detailed operation of the statutory provisions, which has been addressed in case law (see R v Tivnan [1998] EWCA Crim 1370Saggar, Re Drug Trafficing Act 1994 [2005] EWCA Civ 174, Peacock, Re [2012] UKSC 5 and Padda v R. [2013] EWCA Crim 2330).

But the wording of s22 does not refer to a further confiscation order – it refers to a variation of the original order and, potentially more significantly, it fails to take account of the payment already made by the convicted defendant when limiting the overall impact of the confiscation proceedings on him.  Furthermore the statutory test in relation to his current available amount is, in the author’s view at least, misconceived.

The wording of the section is appropriate to the case of a defendant who has not been ordered to pay any amount under the original confiscation order but does not correctly address the situation of a defendant who has made payment previously.  In consequence the section in practice may not have the intended outcome.  For a more detailed discussion of unresolved problems with the legislative wording of s22 see my article PoCA section 22 – unfit for purpose?

Perhaps the best way to explain some of the difficulties which can arise from the wording of this section is by a couple of illustrative worked examples.

 

Worked example – Edward

Edward is a convicted defendant who was consequently subject to a confiscation order under s6 PoCA 2002 in May 2006.  The order made then showed his benefit to be £500,000 and his available amount to be £200,000.  Edward was accordingly ordered to pay £200,000 and he paid this amount on time and in full.

In recent years Edward has operated a successful legitimate business and now (January 2015) has an available amount of £400,000.  The prosecution apply for an order under s22.

Under s22 the court will undertake an examination of Edward’s current available amount (referred to as the “new calculation”) and, if this exceeds the ‘relevant amount’, can order Edward to pay such amount as it believes is just, but does not exceed the amount found as the defendant’s benefit from the conduct concerned, see s22(4).

The ‘relevant amount’ is Edward’s available amount as previously determined by the court, s22(8).  Edward’s benefit from the conduct concerned is his benefit as previously determined by the court, s22(9).

But when deciding whether one amount exceeds another the court must take account of any change in the value of money, s22(7).

 

Change in the value of money

For the purpose of taking account of any change in the value of money we are going to use inflation index figures published by the Office for National Statistics known as RPIJ (which stands for Retail Prices Index Jevons).

(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.)

At the time the prosecutor’s s22 application in Edward’s case is being finalised (January 2015) the latest available figure for the RPIJ is that for November 2014.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics show that the RPIJ values (in Table 35a) were

May 2006 191.6 Date of confiscation order
November 2014 238.3 Latest available index

 

Calculating the uplifts

Edward’s available amount of £200,000 was determined by the court in May 2006 when the RPIJ was 191.6. The latest RPIJ is 238.3 so the uplift is

£200,000 x (238.3 – 191.6) / 191.6 = £48,747

So the equivalent available amount now, referred to in s22(4) as the ‘relevant amount’, is £248,747.

The £500,000 benefit of the offence was also determined by the court in May 2006 so by a similar computation the uplift to that benefit is

£500,000 x (238.3 – 191.6) / 191.6 = £121,868

So the equivalent benefit figure now is £621,868.

 

The court’s powers

We can now see that Edward’s current available amount of £400,000 does exceed the ‘relevant amount’ of £248,747.  So the court may order Edward to make a further payment, but this must not exceed £621,868 (Edward’s total benefit uplifted for changes in the value of money).

As Edward currently has an available amount of only £400,000 the court will presumably not order him to pay an amount in excess of that because that would contravene the spirit of s7 and would not be “just”.

However the defence may argue that an order for £400,000 would not be just because Edward has previously paid a confiscation order of £200,000 in respect of the same benefit.

The defence may argue that the new order should be limited to £300,000 or perhaps to £373,121.

The £300,000 is the amount of the benefit that was determined, but not ordered to be paid, by the court in May 2006 (that is the difference between the £500,000 benefit and £200,000 ordered to be paid at that time).

In the alternative, the defence may argue that the order should be limited to that £300,000 of unpaid benefit in May 2006 uplifted for changes in the value of money since that time.  The uplift of that amount may be calculated as

£300,000 x (238.3 – 191.6) / 191.6 = £73,121

So the equivalent unpaid benefit figure now is £373,121.

If the court were now to order Edward to pay a further £400,000 he will have been required to pay a total of £600,000 (including the £200,000 paid many years previously under the original order) in respect of a benefit of only £500,000.

Because the court has, under s22, a wide discretion to order payment of the amount it believes is just, the court may order Edward to pay any amount between nil and £400,000 (but subject always to an appeal to the Court of Appeal).

The court will in practice assume the usual powers to allow Edward time to pay and to set a default sentence (reflecting the new amount ordered to be paid) in the event of non-payment (although there is no express provision in s22 to vary the time to pay and default sentence in the original confiscation order).

 

Worked example – Stephen

Now let’s consider a second worked example. Stephen’s circumstances are identical to Edward’s in every way except that his available amount in May 2006 was £350,000.  Stephen was accordingly ordered to pay £350,000 and he paid this amount on time and in full.

The benefit that Stephen was not ordered to pay at the time was therefore £150,000.

Stephen’s available amount of £350,000 was determined by the court in May 2006 when the RPIJ was 191.6. The latest RPIJ is 238.3 so the uplift to that figure is

£350,000 x (238.3 – 191.6) / 191.6 = £85,308

So the equivalent available amount now, referred to in s22(4) as the ‘relevant amount’, is £435,308.

Since Stephen’s current available amount of £400,000 does not exceed the ‘relevant amount’ of £435,308 the condition in s22(4) is not met and the court cannot make any further order against Stephen.  The prosecutor’s application under s22 will fail on this occasion.

 

Unintended consequences

In the author’s view neither the possibility of a new order against Edward which would result in the total amounts confiscated from him exceeding the total amount of his benefit (when all amounts are uplifted for changes in the value of money), nor the impossibility of the court making any further order against Stephen when he has unpaid benefit on an old confiscation order and the means to pay it, appear to be the consequences likely to have been intended by parliament when s22 was legislated.

Section 22 was not discussed when the detailed provisions of the (then) Proceeds of Crime Bill were considered by a House of Commons committee as part of the normal legislative process, nor was there any debate on the section in the House of Lords (although subsections 8 & 9 were added to s22 at that late stage there was no debate).  Perhaps this section should now be revisited by parliament.

 

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 – 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.)

Supreme Court caps confiscation enforcement

Supreme Court logoThe UK Supreme Court has capped confiscation enforcement in cases where more than one confiscation order covers the same joint benefit.  The result is that the State will be unable to recover in excess of 100% of the benefit jointly obtained.  It is as if the confiscation order created a joint and several liability of the defendant to ‘repay’ the benefit jointly obtained.

The principle is simple – but the practical implications may on occasion be complex.

In fact the Supreme Court judgment on 18 June 2014 in the cases of R v Ahmad & Ahmed and R v Fields & Others [2014] UKSC 36 dealt with another point too – confirming that under the law of confiscation if two or more persons obtain a benefit jointly they each obtain the whole of it.  That point is considered in a separate blog article.

 

The problem

The problem may best be understood by a simple example.  Suppose John and Jim get a couple of guns, walk into a bank together and rob it of £10,000.  Subsequently they are caught and convicted and are made subject to confiscation orders.  In those confiscation orders each of John and Jim will have a benefit of £10,000.  Assuming each of them has sufficient assets it seems that in total they will be required to ‘repay’ £20,000 into court.  So, it appears, the court will recover twice the amount stolen.

The Supreme Court concluded that that could not be right.  Recovering double the amount stolen would be disproportionate.  It would not serve the real aims of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 and it would be a violation of the defendants’ rights under Article 1 of the First Protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights.

 

The simple answer

The simple answer is to require each of the confiscation orders against John and Jim to provide that it is not to be enforced to the extent that a sum has been recovered by way of satisfaction of another confiscation order made in relation to the same joint benefit.

This is what the Supreme Court held in its judgment at para [74].

So if the court recovers £5,000 from John it will only recover a further £5,000 from Jim.  Of course that means if the court recovers £10,000 from John then it will recover nothing from Jim, but the Supreme Court said that criminals have to accept that risk of unfairness.

 

Potential complications

Although the principle is clear and the reason for it is straightforward, its application in practice may be more complicated.

Suppose that as well as John and Jim robbing the bank there was a getaway driver, Jack.  Let’s suppose Jack was not caught at the time, but a good while later he is caught and convicted.  If he is subject to confiscation then presumably he cannot be liable to pay anything if the court has already received £10,000 from John and Jim.  So that is a bit of luck for Jack!

Let’s consider some other defendants.  Peter and Phil are fraudsters operating a fake business in which they order goods on credit, sell them and disappear – pocketing the money and never paying their suppliers.  Peter and Phil had a joint bank account for the fake business which received £50,000 from customers over a period of just under one year.

Peter and Phil are caught, convicted of fraudulent trading contrary to s9 Fraud Act 2006 and subject to confiscation.  In the confiscation proceedings each of them has a ‘criminal lifestyle‘ having been convicted of an offence carried on for at least 6 months from which a benefit of at least £5,000 has been obtained, s75 PoCA 2002.

Peter and Phil each have a benefit of £50,000 from the offence of which they have been convicted.  But that is not the end of the story.

The separate personal bank accounts which Peter and Phil have are examined and the statutory criminal lifestyle assumptions are applied.  There are £70,000 unexplained credits in Peter’s bank account and £25,000 unexplained credits in Phil’s bank account.  In consequence the court finds Peter’s total benefit for confiscation purposes to be £120,000 and Phil’s total benefit to be £75,000.

Peter’s available amount is £80,000 and Phil’s is £45,000.  So the court makes confiscation orders against Peter for £80,000 and against Phil for £45,000.

If Peter pays the £80,000 and Phil pays nothing, can enforcement proceedings still be taken against Phil?  If they can, how much can be enforced against Phil?  I do not think the Supreme Court judgment helps me answer these questions because I need to know how much of the £80,000 recovered from Peter relates to the £50,000 benefit jointly obtained and how much of it relates to the other £70,000 assumed benefit of Peter’s.

For example if the £80,000 recovered from Peter includes all the £50,000 jointly obtained benefit of the fraud then the most that can be enforced against Phil is his additional assumed benefit of £25,000.

But, at the other extreme, if the £80,000 recovered from Peter comprises £70,000 re his additional assumed benefit and only £10,000 re the jointly obtained benefit then it would appear that the whole £45,000 can be enforced against Phil (because he still has unrecovered amounts of £40,000 joint benefit and £25,000 additional assumed benefit).

Looking at this another way, if we make a presumption that in each case the first £50,000 of the amounts ordered to be paid by Peter and Phil related specifically to the jointly obtained benefit then the £80,000 paid by Peter has repaid all of the jointly obtained benefit and so (arguably) there can be no enforcement action against Phil.  But that would seem to be a nonsensical outcome.

 

Default sentences

We also need to consider the implications for default sentences.

Going back to John and Jim.  They each had a benefit of £10,000 from the bank robbery.  Let’s assume the confiscation orders against each of them specified a default sentence of 6 months.  If the court recovers £5,000 from John – so it can then only enforce a maximum of £5,000 against Jim – does that result in a corresponding reduction in Jim’s default sentence if he fails to pay?

My guess is that Jim will indeed have his default sentence effectively reduced.  But the Supreme Court judgment does not provide the answer.

Presumably Jack, the getaway driver, cannot be made to serve any default sentence if the court has already recovered the £10,000 from John and Jim.  And what about Phil the fraudster – what is the position regarding his default sentence?

 

In conclusion

It seems to me that in solving one problem the Supreme Court have risked creating further problems in relation to the enforcement of confiscation orders.

If it were decided that any ambiguity should be resolved in favour of the defendants then (i) all recoveries from any defendant should be applied against his benefit jointly obtained in priority to his other benefit, and (ii) each defendant’s default sentence ought to be reduced pro-rata when the amount enforceable against him reduces (whether this arises as a result of a recovery from him or as a result of a recovery from another person relating to benefit obtained jointly with him).

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.)

Reform of confiscation law

Police lamp copyright David Winch 2014The government has announced proposed reforms of confiscation law which are expected to come into effect in 2015.  This article considers the most significant of those proposals which are set out in the Serious Crime Bill 2014 introduced into Parliament on 6 June 2014.

The major reforms fall into six areas: – restraint orders; money belonging to a person subject to a confiscation order; determination of third party interests in assets; time to pay; default sentence for non-payment; and powers of investigation.

This article deals with the reforms to confiscation law applicable in England & Wales.  The Bill also proposes to amend the confiscation law operating in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

 

Restraint orders

As noted in my article “Restraint orders under PoCA 2002“, under existing law the applicant for the restraint order must show that he has reasonable cause to believe that a benefit has been obtained from criminal conduct, s40(2).  Under the proposals an applicant for a restraint order would only be required to show that there were reasonable grounds to suspect that a benefit had been obtained from criminal conduct, clause 11.  That obviously is a lesser hurdle for the applicant.

But interestingly the Bill does not include any proposed amendment to s69(2) which forms the basis of the view that ordinarily a restraint order should be made only if there is genuinely a risk that assets will be dissipated.  That approach has itself militated against the early obtaining of a restraint order in some cases.

 

Money belonging to a person subject to a confiscation order

A proposed amendment to s67 will make it easier for a court to order that money held in a bank account (or similar account) should be paid into court where the money belongs to a person subject to a confiscation order, clause 14.  That will apply when the account is in the name of the defendant or where the money has previously been seized by the authorities.

Under existing law this power can only be exercised where the money is subject to a restraint order and where the period allowed for payment under the confiscation order has elapsed.  These two conditions are omitted under the proposed amendment.

 

Determination of third party interests in assets

Under existing legislation a person other than the defendant who claims an interest in property in which the defendant also has an interest, plays no part in the confiscation proceedings until the enforcement stage (that is, after the confiscation order has been made).  However the extent of the defendant’s interest in the property (and hence also the extent of the third party’s interest in it) may have a bearing on the defendant’s benefit (particularly where the ‘criminal lifestyle‘ assumptions have been triggered) and on his available amount.

In consequence at the enforcement stage third party claims on assets may need to be considered by the courts for the first time.  That can have the effect of delaying and, in some cases, frustrating enforcement of the confiscation order.

The proposal is that at the stage of making the confiscation order the Crown Court may make a ruling determining the defendant’s interest in property (in which a third party has, or may have, an interest) and that such a determination would be conclusive in most circumstances, clause 1.  Such a determination would therefore, for example, defeat any greater claim made subsequently in the family courts by a domestic partner.

In order to allow third party claims to be properly considered, under this proposal the Crown Court, before making such a determination, would allow third parties to make representations to the court regarding their interests in the property in question.

In the author’s view this proposal risks creating as many problems as it solves.  It will in many cases increase the complexity of confiscation proceedings.  It carries the risk of Crown Court judges making rulings in matters relating to issues of property law and family law in which they may have little experience.  Confiscation orders may be unjust where third parties realise too late that they ought to have been represented in confiscation proceedings in order to protect their own interests.

Whilst the government apparently anticipates that Crown Courts will exercise this power of determination only in straightforward cases, the author’s view is that an apparently straightforward case may prove to be more complex when further matters come to light after a determination has been made.

This may prove to be the most controversial of the proposed reforms.

 

Time to pay

The proposal is to halve the maximum time allowed for payment of a confiscation order and to make explicit provision for parts of the total sum ordered to be paid to fall due earlier than other parts, clause 5.

At present a Crown Court may initially allow a defendant up to six months to pay.  A further six months, making a maximum of 12 months in all, may be allowed on a further application, s11The proposal is to reduce the initial period to three months maximum, with a further three months available on application, making a maximum of six months in total.

Courts would also be able to provide for earlier payment dates for part of the total sum – for example where the available amount comprises money in a bank account and an interest in a residential property the confiscation order could require payments from the bank account within, say, 14 days of the confiscation order with the balance due three months from the date of the order.

The practical effect of this proposal is to further limit the current discretion of Crown Court judges to allow a defendant time to pay the confiscation order, with the result that interest and enforcement action will be triggered more quickly.

 

Default sentence for non-payment

The existing provisions are dealt with in my article “Confiscation – default sentence“.   The proposal, clause 10, is to amend the maximum default sentences to read as follows:

An amount not exceeding £10,000 6 months
An amount exceeding £10,000 but not exceeding £500,000 5 years
An amount exceeding £500,000 but not exceeding £1,000,000 7 years
An amount exceeding £1 million 14 years

Furthermore, it is proposed that where the confiscation order is made for an amount in excess of £10 million the usual provision allowing release at the half-way stage of a sentence will be disapplied.  This means that a person who is the subject of a confiscation order in excess of £10 million may be required to remain in prison for the full 14 years of a default sentence.  (This disapplication of early release is proposed to apply where the default occurs on or after clause 10(3) has come into force and so may apply to confiscation orders made before the Bill receives the Royal Assent, clause 68(2).)

 

Powers of investigation

At present the investigation powers under Part 8, PoCA 2002 cease to be available as soon as a confiscation order is made.  It is proposed that these powers should remain available in effect until the confiscation order is satisfied, amending s341 by clause 34 of the Bill.

 

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.)