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Proceeds of Crime Act 2002

Seizure and detention
Section 294: Seizure of cash

409.Chapter 3 expands and replaces the scheme set out in Part II of the Drug Trafficking Act 1994 which provides for the seizure and forfeiture of cash which is being imported into or exported from the United Kingdom, and which represents the proceeds of, or is intended for use in, drug trafficking. This scheme is expanded to include cash related to all unlawful conduct and also provides for the seizure of such cash inland. Section 294 enables a customs officer or a constable to seize cash at the borders or inland if he has reasonable grounds for suspecting that the cash is recoverable property or intended for use in unlawful conduct. Subsection (2) allows for the seizure of indivisible cash only part of which is under suspicion. An example of this is a single cheque of £50,000 where the cash under suspicion is only £25,000. Section 296(2) provides that when such cash can be divided on payment into an interest bearing account, the part not under suspicion must be released.

410.Section 289(6) and (7) defines cash for the purposes of Chapter 3 and enables the Secretary of State following consultation with Scottish Ministers to prescribe by order other monetary instruments. Such monetary instruments must be of a kind that can be paid into an interest bearing account, so as to comply with the requirements of section 296. In order to guard against excessive and disproportionate use of the power, there is to be a threshold below which the powers will not be available; this is specified in an order under section 303. A definition of unlawful conduct is to be found in section 241, and of recoverable property at section 304 to 310.

Sections 295-296: Detention of seized cash; Interest

411.The effect of section 295 is that cash may not be detained for more than 48 hours except by order of a magistrate (or a sheriff in Scotland). A magistrate may make such an order if satisfied that there are reasonable grounds for the officer’s suspicion and that the continued detention is justified for the purposes of investigating its origin or intended use. The magistrate may also make an order for continued detention if consideration is being given to the bringing of criminal proceedings, or if such proceedings have been commenced and not concluded. Monies detained would in most cases be paid into an interest bearing account as provided in section 296 pending the outcome of proceedings.

Section 297: Release of detained cash

412.Section 297 envisages two situations in which cash or any part of the cash may be released to the person from whom it was seized. Firstly, the magistrates’ court (or a sheriff in Scotland) may do so in response to an application by the person from whom the cash was seized on the grounds that it is not recoverable property and is not intended for use in unlawful conduct. The fact that only the person from whom the money is seized may apply to the court is intended to prevent the magistrates’ court from becoming embroiled in a dispute between the person from whom the cash was seized and the rightful owner of the cash. Secondly, a customs officer, a constable or (in Scotland) a procurator fiscal, may release cash or any part of it after notifying the justice, magistrates’ court or sheriff if satisfied that the detention can no longer be justified.

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