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Proceeds of Crime Act 2002

Confiscation orders

Section 6: Making of order

21.Section 6 sets out the circumstances in which confiscation orders under Part 2 of the Act can be made. Confiscation orders may only be made in the Crown Court; the limited power of the magistrates’ court under earlier confiscation legislation to make a confiscation order is abolished. Under the Act, a confiscation order may be made following any conviction in the Crown Court or the magistrates’ court. Where the conviction takes place in the magistrates’ court, a confiscation order can only be made if the defendant is either committed to the Crown Court for sentence or committed to the Crown Court for sentence and confiscation under the new power created in the Act (see section 70). The confiscation procedures are mandatory: the Crown Court must go through them where asked to do so by the prosecutor or the Director of the new Agency.

22.Section 6 also makes clear the nature of a confiscation order under the Act. It is an order to a convicted defendant to pay a sum of money representing the defendant’s benefit from crime. The approach of the Act to confiscation therefore reflects that adopted by the existing legislation.

23.Section 6 also makes it clear that Part 2 provides for confiscation of the defendant’s benefit from either his “general criminal conduct” or his “particular criminal conduct”. General criminal conduct means any criminal conduct of the defendant’s, whenever the conduct occurred (see section 76) and whether or not it has ever formed the subject of any criminal prosecution. Particular criminal conduct means the offences of which the defendant has been convicted in the current proceedings, together with any taken into consideration by the court in passing sentence (again, see section 76). So general criminal conduct includes particular criminal conduct.

24.Confiscation is by reference to the defendant’s benefit from his general criminal conduct where he is identified by the court on conviction as having a criminal lifestyle. This is determined by reference to the nature of the offence or offences of which he has been convicted in the current proceedings or certain previous proceedings. The offences in question are specified in section 75, read in conjunction with Schedule 2. If the court decides that the defendant does not have a criminal lifestyle, confiscation is by reference to his benefit from his particular criminal conduct.

Section 7: Recoverable amount

25.Section 7 specifies how the amount recoverable under a confiscation order is to be calculated. The method of calculation is much the same as in the existing confiscation statutes. The amount is the amount of the defendant’s benefit from either his general criminal conduct or his particular criminal conduct (as the case may be), unless the amount available for confiscation is considered by the court and found to be less than the benefit in question, in which case the order must be made in that lesser amount. The amount available for confiscation is described as the available amount (equivalent to the term “the amount that might be realised” in the earlier confiscation legislation) and the amount actually ordered to be confiscated as the recoverable amount (equivalent to “the amount to be recovered” in the earlier confiscation legislation). Subsection (2) affirms a line of case law to the effect that the burden is on the defendant to show that the available amount is less than the benefit and to show the extent of the available amount. Where the court decides the available amount (and it will only do so at the defendant’s request), subsection (5) requires it to include a statement of its calculations in the confiscation order. This is intended to assist enforcement by alerting the enforcing authorities to the property available for confiscation.

Section 8: Defendant’s benefit

26.This section describes how the court must work out whether the defendant has benefited from criminal conduct and what the value of that benefit is. Subsection 2 explains that the court must regard the defendant as having benefited by the value of any property obtained by him from criminal conduct up to the time the court makes its decision. Subsections (3) to (8) deal with the situation where the court is holding a confiscation proceeding in respect of the defendant’s general criminal conduct, and a previous confiscation order or orders has been made against the defendant in respect of such conduct. General criminal conduct means all the defendant’s criminal conduct at any time, so a court making a general criminal conduct confiscation order could confiscate the same benefit twice, unless the legislation prevented it. Section 8 prevents double counting of the same benefit by providing (broadly) that, once the court has calculated the defendant’s benefit from his or her general criminal conduct, it must deduct the amount ordered to be paid under the last general criminal conduct confiscation order previously made against the defendant. Sub-section (4) ensures that a calculation of benefit once made in relation to an offence will apply for the purposes of any subsequent calculation of benefit in respect of general criminal conduct.. The provision is not required for particular criminal conduct because the same offences cannot be subject to a second conviction, or taken into consideration for sentencing purposes twice, and therefore there is no risk of confiscating the same benefit from particular criminal conduct twice.

Section 9: Available amount

27.Section 9 explains how the available amount is to be calculated. It is calculated in the same way as “the amount that might be realised” in the earlier confiscation legislation. The available amount is the value of all the defendant’s property, minus certain prior obligations of the defendant’s such as earlier fines, plus the value of all tainted gifts made by the defendant. Tainted gifts are described in section 77.

Section 10: Assumptions to be made in case of criminal lifestyle

28.Section 10 applies where the court has decided that the defendant has a criminal lifestyle and it is, accordingly, considering the defendant’s benefit from general criminal conduct. The section requires the court to make certain specified assumptions to establish whether the defendant has benefited from general criminal conduct, and, if so, by how much. The court is not, however, permitted to make an assumption in relation to particular property or expenditure if it is shown to be incorrect or there would be a serious risk of injustice if it were made. Where for any reason the court does not make any of the assumptions specified in the legislation, it must nevertheless continue to decide whether the defendant has benefited from general criminal conduct and decide the recoverable amount, albeit without the assistance of the assumptions.

29.The earlier confiscation legislation provides for similar assumptions to be made. They are mandatory in confiscation proceedings following a conviction for a drug trafficking offence, but discretionary in all other confiscation cases (and, in the latter case, other criteria must be satisfied before they can be made). Section 11 creates a single scheme under which the assumptions are mandatory in all cases where a person has a criminal lifestyle (defined in section 75).

Section 11: Time for payment

30.Section 11 indicates how long the court may allow the defendant to pay the amount due under the confiscation order. At present, there is no limit on the time that may be allowed. Section 11 provides that the amount is to be paid immediately, unless the defendant can demonstrate to the court that he needs more time to pay. The prosecutor and Director will have the right to be heard at any application by the defendant for time to pay, or an extension of time to pay. If the court is satisfied that time to pay is required, it may allow up to six months to pay, and up to a further six months on a later occasion if there are exceptional reasons justifying the extension. In no case, however, will more than 12 months be granted from the day on which the confiscation order is made.

Section 12: Interest on unpaid sums

31.Section 12 makes it clear that the defendant must pay interest on a confiscation order that is not paid in full by the time allowed. It leaves no room for doubt that the payment of interest is mandatory in all cases (the existing legislation is framed in terms of a “liability” to pay interest and it has been suggested occasionally that this implies a discretion as to whether or not interest is added to a particular unpaid order).

Section 13: Effect of order on court’s other powers

32.Section 13 requires the court to have regard to the confiscation order before imposing a fine or other order involving payment on the defendant, except for a compensation order, but otherwise to leave the confiscation order out of account in sentencing the defendant. It reproduces the effect of existing legislation.

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