Making every aking pound pound count

POCA In this feature AFIs production orders restraint orders Making every aking pound pound count The Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 is a valuable weapon in trading standards armoury. Lee Wenzel spells out the benefits T he Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) is a powerful piece of legislation that can be used by councils to investigate and conscate assets acquired as a result of crime. Local authority accredited nancial investigators (AFIs) can make applications in the crown court for a range of investigative orders, including production orders, account-monitoring orders and restraint orders and these should be considered an important tool for trading standards. These orders are placed on people convicted of a range of crimes, including counterfeiting infringements, toy-safety rules violations, planning breaches and benet fraud. The financial benefits By using POCA, Brent Council has secured 5,430,922 through 52 conscation orders since 2002. In the nancial year 2013/14 alone, it received 572,015.26 from the Asset Recovery Incentivisation Scheme (ARIS), which is operated and monitored by the Home Ofces organised nancial crime unit. Under the scheme, 50 per cent of any paid conscation order goes to the government and the remaining 50 per cent is split between the court service (which gets 12.5 per cent), the prosecuting authority (18.75 per cent) and the investigating authority (18.75 per cent). AFIs also have powers to seize cash under POCA. This power is vital and can be used as a quick, hard-hitting, alternative enforcement method. Those who trade illegally often deal in cash and can make vast prots. Seizing cash and then applying for detention and forfeiture can be done in a relatively short period of time, without the need for a criminal prosecution, and 50 per cent of any successfully forfeited cash goes to the authority that seized it. Cash detention and forfeiture is dealt with in the magistrates court, and the applicant has to prove that on the balance of probabilities POCA is vital for accredited financial investigators and can be used as a quick, hard-hitting, alternative enforcement method BET TER TOGETHER Joined-up, collaborative working between poor condition. These buildings not only value of the benefit made from renting the trading standards and planning can provide sub-standard housing for people, property. This sends a clear message that have real financial benefits when coupled but also have an adverse impact on local crime does not pay. with a POCA order. For example, I sit within residents and the character of the area. trading standards, but do work directly with A fine for a planning breach would be Historically, Brent Council had difficulty achieving compliance with planning planning officers, accompanying them viewed by many rogue landlords as a enforcement notices, particularly for on enforcement visits to gather financial business expense just an occupational flat conversations; fines in magistrates intelligence while they collect evidence of hazard thus potentially leaving them courts were not sufficient and were not a a planning infringement. with their ill-gotten gains. By using the deterrent. However, after the case of R v confiscation regime, landlords not only Luigi Del Basso, the council started using in illegal conversions are cramped and face a fine, but also the prospect of being POCA and secured compliance with overcrowded, and the properties are in a stripped of their assets, at least to the enforcement notices for flat conversions. Often, the living conditions for tenants the seized cash has come from criminal conduct or is to be used in criminal conduct. Since these cash-seizure powers came into force in 2002, Brent & Harrow Trading Standards has seized just short of 100,000. Some of this money has been forfeited and some is subject to ongoing forfeiture proceedings. Brent & Harrow Trading Standards has also used restraint powers on a number of occasions to prevent assets from being dissipated before any conscation hearing. For example, a high-value car was restrained, pre-summons, and was later sold to pay a conscation order. Types of orders AFIs can make applications in the crown court for a range of investigative orders. Production orders can be used to obtain information to support a nancial investigation for example, details from banks and restraint orders can be used to prevent assets from being dissipated. A nancial investigation can be carried out either before or after conviction and there are benets to starting it early, rather than leaving it until post-conviction. POCA has two regimes for asset recovery criminal lifestyle and particular criminal conduct. If the lifestyle regime applies, the defendants nances and assets can be exposed as the proceeds of By using POCA, Brent Council has secured 5,430,922 through 52 confiscation orders since 2002 CAS ES IN POINT One case in Alperton was recently concluded by Brent Council against two men who had been convicted of importing counterfeit goods. They were both sentenced to three years in jail and separate confiscation orders were made against each individual, for 63,585.45 and 13,233.37. Both men were given six months to pay or face more time in prison. In 2014, a trader in Wembley was jailed for selling equipment designed to circumvent paid-for television services. The kit enabled people to view subscription television services for free, bypassing the payment required by broadcasters. In particular, the company specialised in providing equipment that allowed viewers in the UK to watch live Premier League football matches. During a search of the traders home and business, the financial investigator found 46,801 in cash, which was detained under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002. After the conclusion of the criminal case, Willesden Magistrates Court ordered its forfeiture. The cash seizure order ensures that no benefit is made from money gained through criminality. crime over a period of six years, and can be subject to conscation. Assumptions can be made and it is for the defendant to rebut these. Certain types of convictions can trigger the lifestyle regime, including: where a person is convicted of four or more offences on the same occasion and the benet is not less than 5,000; where a person is convicted of an offence that spans at least six months and the benet is not less than 5,000; or where there is a conviction for a section 327 or 328 money-laundering offence. If a conviction doesnt fall within the lifestyle regime, conscation proceedings can still be applied, but conscation will be limited to the benet that has been gained as a result of the offences before the court. This regime is know as particular criminal conduct. Conscation proceedings take place in the crown court and the prosecutor asks the court to proceed after conviction. A timetable is then set for these proceedings and includes the defendant having to provide nancial information, and the prosecutor serving a statement detailing the ndings of the nancial investigation. A date is set for the conscation hearing at which the benet made from crime will be determined, together with the amount of money available to pay the order. The court then makes a conscation order, provides the defendant with a time period in which to pay it and also sets a default sentence should the order not be paid. POCA is one of many pieces of legislation changing the face of enforcement in councils up and down the country. It is vital that local authorities embrace it so that criminals are not left with assets that they have gained from committing illegal activities. Credits Published Lee Wenzel is an accredited nancial Thursday 7 May, 2015 investigator at Brent Council. Images: tankist276 / Shutterstock To share this page, in the toolbar click on