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3 minutes reading time (554 words)

The forfeiture of valuable movable property: a magpie's charter

The Government has found it increasingly attractive to take the high moral ground over the forfeiture of alleged criminal property because the effect is for them to keep it as a windfall.   Unlike criminal cases, the burden of proof is not beyond reasonable doubt, but just on a balance of probabilities.

The Criminal Finances Act 2017 has amended the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (POCA) to allow authorised law enforcement agencies such as police or customs to seize, detain and forfeit “listed assets”, if they are recoverable property or intended for use in unlawful conduct.

Listed assets can be-

  1. Precious metals;
  2. Precious stones;
  3. Watches;
  4. Artistic works;
  5. Face- value vouchers;
  6. Postage stamps.

Precious metal includes gold, silver or platinum whether in an unmanufactured or a manufactured state.

Artistic work means a piece of work falling within section 4(1)(a) of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

Face-value voucher means a voucher in physical form that represents a right to receive goods or services to the value of an amount stated on it.

An officer can search for listed assets on any premises, if there lawfully, and with reasonable grounds for suspecting seizable listed asset are there, and the power extends to;

  • searching people and vehicles.
  • carrying out tests of anything found during the course of the search to determine if it is a listed asset
  • property valued at £1000 or more

Detention

Property may be detained for an initial period of six hours, but a senior officer can authorise detention for a further forty-two hours.   An officer can then make an application to a Magistrates court to extend the period of detention for up to six months. The court must be satisfied that the property is a listed asset, its value is not less than £1,000 and that one of the following conditions are met:

Condition 1 is that there are reasonable grounds for suspecting that the property is recoverable and that either –

(a) Its continued detention is justified while its derivation is further investigated or consideration is given to bringing (in the United Kingdom or elsewhere) proceedings against any person for an offence with which the property is connected, or

(b) Proceedings against any person for an offence with which the property is connected have been started and not been concluded.

Condition 2 is that there are reasonable grounds for suspecting that the property is intended to be used in unlawful conduct and that either –

(a) Its continued detention is justified while its intended use is further investigated or consideration is given to bringing (in the United Kingdom or elsewhere) proceedings against any person for any offence with which the property is connected, or

(b) Proceedings against any person for an offence with which the property is connected have been started and have not been concluded.

Forfeiture

After property has been seized and detained an application can be made to the Magistrates for forfeiture of all or any part of it, if they are satisfied that it is a listed asset, and that it is recoverable property or intended for use in unlawful conduct

Contact our criminal lawyers today 

Saunders Law Crime Department has considerable experience of such cases, and for legal advice please contact Saunders Law either via our website or by calling 0207 632 4300 to speak to a member of our team.

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