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Proceeds of Crime Act 2002

Section 281: Victims of theft, etc.

386.Property which has been stolen (or is the result of some other unlawful conduct comprising the deprivation of a true owner of his property) is property obtained through unlawful conduct, and therefore potentially recoverable by the enforcement authority. But section 281 gives the claims of a true owner precedence over those of the enforcement authority. Where civil recovery court proceedings have begun in respect of property, a true owner is entitled to request a declaration from the court that he has a valid claim to it because he was deprived of it (or of property which it ‘represents’) by unlawful conduct. This need not be the unlawful conduct on which the authority relies. So if, for example, a drug trafficker steals money from a person and invests it in drug trafficking, the enforcement authority may bring proceedings in respect of the property that the drug trafficker has obtained through the drug trafficking. But the victim would still be able to claim that part of the property belonged to him, even though the authority was relying on the drug trafficking, rather than the theft. The effect of such a declaration is that the property ceases to be recoverable by the Director or by the Scottish Ministers (subsection (4)).

387.Subsection (3) makes clear that this exception only applies to the original true owner of property. It would not benefit someone who has for example stolen property from its original owner, but who in turn has had that property stolen from him. The property would have become recoverable when it was stolen from the original owner; the original owner will be able to request a declaration even if it is stolen again, whereas the person who first stole the property will not.

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