Seeing drug dealers rolling around in their ‘blinged’ out Range Rovers, wearing expensive fur coats and sporting gold teeth is pretty frustrating, no? Us law abiding citizens have always been told that crime doesn’t pay, so why does the shady chap living in the mansion across the road with no discernible source of legitimate income seem to be living the high life?
Well, we wondered this too and as a result were granted fantastic powers under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.
The aim of the Act is to ensure that crime does not pay and that even if criminals have enjoyed a brief period in which they were able to benefit from their crimes, means that the police and courts are able to impose what can often be crushing penalties on those who have been profiting from a criminal lifestyle.
The Act itself gives officers extensive powers to tackle a whole range of different offences.
In the West Midlands Police we have dedicated ‘pay back’ teams whose sole purpose it is to ensure that when a rich criminal appears before the courts, they are successfully convicted and emerge from prison much worse off.
Particularly relevant to my role as a Response Officer are Parts 2 and 5 of the Act which grant powers to seize assets and cash.
Part 2 enables the courts to make a confiscation order against a criminal upon their conviction if it has been proven that they have been benefiting from a criminal lifestyle. This can come in the form or either a large bill for the criminal to pay or the seizure of assets from the criminal to the value of the benefit it is believed he or she obtained. In real terms this can mean a criminal’s prized collection of diamond encrusted rings appearing at an auction near you. Whether anyone would want them is another matter…
Part 5 gives us the ability to seize cash over the value of £1000 and apply to the courts to retain it if we feel that it is evidence of an offence or intended for use in unlawful conduct. Unlike the above power, to seize cash a conviction is not required making it easier for us to take the money away from the criminals.
Since its introduction the Proceeds of Crime Act has been invaluable in disrupting the activity of criminals and has generated many success stories around the country.
I myself was involved in a drugs warrant last year during which a large quantity of cash was seized and thanks to the pay back team successfully seized as its previous owner had been unable to prove that they had obtained it legitimately.
For other positive stories relating to the Act, please have a look at these examples from Suffolk’s Criminal Justice Board which include that of Nathaniel Leheup who found himself the best part of £120,000 poorer after being found guilty of handling stolen goods.
Crime most certainly doesn’t pay – just ask Mr. Leheup!