Search Legislation

Proceeds of Crime Act 2002


3.Powers to confiscate from convicted defendants their benefit from crime were first introduced following the failure to recover funds in a drug trafficking case in 1978 known as Operation Julie. In this case, some £750,000 of drug trafficking proceeds were traced into the hands of the offenders and restrained. These funds had to be released after the House of Lords held that existing powers to forfeit items used in the commission of an offence could not be used “to strip the drug traffickers of the total profits of their unlawful enterprises.” The confiscation regime was introduced in England & Wales by the Drug Trafficking Offences Act 1986. A similar regime was introduced in Scotland by the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 1987. Although confiscation was initially available only in drug trafficking cases, it was extended by the Criminal Justice Act 1988 and the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 1995 to cover non-drug indictable offences and specified summary offences. In Northern Ireland, powers to confiscate both the proceeds of drug trafficking and other crime were introduced in the Criminal Justice (Confiscation) (Northern Ireland) Order 1990. Most of this legislation has been amended since its introduction and, while some has been consolidated (in, for example, the Drug Trafficking Act 1994, the Proceeds of Crime (Scotland) Act 1995 and the Proceeds of Crime (Northern Ireland) Order 1996), much has not.

4.Confiscation orders are available following a conviction. The purpose of confiscation proceedings is to recover the financial benefit that the offender has obtained from his criminal conduct. The court calculates the value of that benefit and orders the offender to pay an equivalent sum (or less where a lower sum is available for confiscation). Proceedings are conducted according to the civil standard of proof, i.e. on the balance of probabilities. In certain circumstances the court is empowered to assume that the defendant’s assets, and his income and expenditure during the period of six years before proceedings were brought, have been derived from criminal conduct and to calculate the confiscation order accordingly. In England, Wales and Northern Ireland the court is required to make this assumption following a conviction for drug trafficking, unless to do so would give rise to a serious risk of injustice.

Back to top


Print Options


Explanatory Notes

Text created by the government department responsible for the subject matter of the Act to explain what the Act sets out to achieve and to make the Act accessible to readers who are not legally qualified. Explanatory Notes were introduced in 1999 and accompany all Public Acts except Appropriation, Consolidated Fund, Finance and Consolidation Acts.


More Resources

Access essential accompanying documents and information for this legislation item from this tab. Dependent on the legislation item being viewed this may include:

  • the original print PDF of the as enacted version that was used for the print copy
  • lists of changes made by and/or affecting this legislation item
  • confers power and blanket amendment details
  • all formats of all associated documents
  • correction slips
  • links to related legislation and further information resources