2 Imposing confiscation orders |
6. Confiscation orders can be imposed following successful
prosecutions and financial investigations carried out by law enforcement
agencies. However, law enforcement and prosecution agencies are
missing opportunities to impose confiscation orders. In 2012-13,
673,000 offenders in England and Wales were convicted of a crime,
a substantial proportion of which involved financial gain, but
courts imposed only 6,392 confiscation orders.
A former member of the Crown Prosecution Service who worked in
this area told us that staff in the agencies concerned often have
a poor understanding and awareness of proceeds of crime legislation
and the tools available to confiscate assets.
7. The Director of Public Prosecutions noted that
the low number of confiscation orders arose in part because of
a lack of evidence to impose them and that increasing the number
would require better guidance for practitioners together with
a common set of criteria to assess whether pursuing a confiscation
order would be appropriate and cost-effective.
In considering which cases would be appropriate for confiscation
orders, the Director of Public Prosecutions told us that detailed
work was needed and was being undertaken by the Crown Prosecution
Service to classify all criminal cases into distinct types, before
deciding what sort of recovery action would be most appropriate
for each type.
8. The National Crime Agency told us that financial
investigation was absolutely central to disrupting criminal activities,
preventing criminals' access to their assets and confiscating
Since our 2007 report on the Assets Recovery Agency, significant
progress has been made in professionalising financial investigation
through the proceeds of crime centre.
However, despite this progress agencies often bring financial
investigators into criminal cases too late in their preparations
for court, and in some cases not at all.
9. At the same time the use of restraint orders to
freeze assets is reducing: only 1,368 orders were imposed in 2012-13,
down from 1,878 in 2010-11.
The Director of Public Prosecutions told us that a recent Court
of Appeal case had made it much harder to impose restraint orders
and that there is a costs risk with unsuccessful applications.
The National Crime Agency informed us that it tried to take the
earliest opportunity to restrain assets; but admitted that in
its first three months of existence it had not frozen any assets
within 24 hours of arrest in any case. 
The Home Office, National Crime Agency and Crown Prosecution Service
referred to the difficulties faced in arranging the imposition
of a restraint order: the court needs to be shown by the prosecution
that a criminal investigation or proceedings has started; that
a suspect has benefited from criminal conduct; and that there
is a risk that assets will be dissipated.
13 Qq130-Q135 Back
Ev 18; C&AG's report, paragraph 3.5 Back
Q29; HC Committee of Public Accounts, Assets Recovery Agency,
Fiftieth Report of Session 2006-07, HC 391, January 2011; C&AG's
report, paragraph 2.5 Back
Qq40-44; C&AG's report, paragraph 3.7 Back
Q44; Ev 20 Back
Ev 20 Back