3 Enforcing confiscation orders |
10. Three enforcement agencies are responsible for
collecting the great majority of confiscation orders once they
have been imposed. HM Courts & Tribunals Service is primarily
responsible for collecting low-value orders while the Crown Prosecution
Service and Serious Fraud Office usually lead on the complex,
high-value cases. Enforcement bodies are generally successful
in collecting low-value orders but not high-value ones, with an
enforcement rate of nearly 90% for orders under £1,000, but
just 18% for orders over £1 million.
Significantly more value lies in the small number of high orders,
with a total of around £1.5 billion of confiscation order
debt remaining uncollected.
11. Cost information relating to individual orders
does not exist and performance information is basic, focussing
only on amounts imposed and collected. For each outstanding order
the agencies therefore do not know how much is realistically collectable,
how much enforcement activity is costing and how successful their
activity is. The
National Crime Agency told us that serious and organised criminals
make it difficult for the authorities by using complex financial
instruments such as hiding money overseas or placing it in the
hands of spouses but nevertheless significant improvements are
required to the confiscation order system.
12. The agencies could not tell which confiscation
orders they should prioritise due to a lack of balanced set of
performance and cost information. They also did not know what
approaches to enforcement were most successful or cost-effective,
and how they were performing against wider policy objectives,
including, as the Home Office told us is most important, against
the objective of cutting crime.
These gaps not only impede enforcement activity, but also wider
governance of the process, including accountability and the effective
running of the incentive scheme.
13. Some bodies have started to prioritise confiscation
cases and work together on those identified as the highest priority.
For example, the Crown Prosecution Service and National Crime
Agency have identified 59 high priority cases that have not yet
been enforced, accounting for 61% of the total value of outstanding
Crown Prosecution Service cases.
The National Crime Agency, Crown Prosecution Service, Serious
Fraud Office and HM Courts & Tribunals Service have together
identified another 124 priority cases for additional enforcement
14. The efforts of the bodies involved in the confiscation
order process are
hampered by outdated ICT systems that are not interoperable, leading
to errors and time consuming re-keying of information between
For example, an estimated 45 hours a week are wasted by HM Courts
& Tribunals Service staff just opening, saving and downloading
data into the Confiscation Order Tracking System system.
The need for substantial re-keying of data had resulted in data
errors, which, together with some incomplete and erroneous information
provided by financial investigators and Crown Courts, had acted
to slow progress further and reduce enforcement rates.
15. In subsequent written evidence the witnesses
told us that a multi-agency group had been established to identify
required changes to the Joint Asset Recovery Database (JARD) and
that they expected improvements to be in place quickly.
HM Courts & Tribunals Service also told us it was working
with the Crown Prosecution Service to deliver a completely new
shared ICT system within two years
at a cost of between £120-£130 million that would be
fully interoperable with JARD and police forces' ICT systems.
16. Offenders who do not pay their confiscation orders
face a default prison sentence of up to ten years, which follows
their imprisonment for the original offence. They must also pay
more as the amount outstanding accrues 8% interest. However, many
criminals with high-value orders are willing to serve time in
prison rather than pay-up and around £490 million is outstanding
for offenders who have served or are currently serving default
sentences. The Home
Office told us they plan to strengthen prison penalties and the
recently published Serious and Organised Crime Strategy states
that the government will be "substantially strengthening
the prison sentences for failing to pay confiscation orders so
as to prevent offenders from choosing to serve prison sentences
rather than pay confiscation orders".
In addition to longer prison sentences there will be less chance
of early release.
However, the Home Office and the National Crime Agency have not
outlined how this will work in practice, how effective this action
will be in increasing enforcement rates overall, and its cost-effectiveness
when set against inevitably higher resulting prison costs. The
Joint Committee on the draft Modern Slavery Bill might include
this in their deliberations.
24 Q7, Qq143-145; C&AG's report, paragraph 1.10
and Figure 4. Back
C&AG's report, paragraph 1.11 Back
Q1, Qq17-20, Q30, Q86, C&AG's report, paragraph 4.6 Back
Qq1-8; Qq17-19; C&AG's report, paragraphs 2.10 and 4.6 Back
Qq98-99; Qq100-106 Back
Qq114-115; C&AG's report, paragraph 4.14 and figure 17 Back
Q98; C&AG's report, figure 19 Back
Ev 20 Back
Q105; Q114; C&AG's report, paragraph 4.14 and Figure 17 Back
C&AG's report, paragraph 4.18 Back
Q28, Q129; HM Government, Serious and Organised Crime Strategy,
Cm 8715, October 2013, page 35 Back
Q28, Qq122-124 Back