Confiscation under Part 2 of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002

Current project status

  • Initiation: Could include discussing scope and terms of reference with lead Government Department
  • Pre-consultation: Could include approaching interest groups and specialists, producing scoping and issues papers, finalising terms of project
  • Consultation: Likely to include consultation events and paper, making provisional proposals for comment
  • Policy development: Will include analysis of consultation responses. Could include further issues papers and consultation on draft Bill
  • Reported: Usually recommendations for law reform but can be advice to government, scoping report or other recommendations

Work has started on this project. We aim to publish a consultation paper by September 2019.

The Home Office has asked the Law Commission to review the confiscation regime in the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (“POCA”).

No one doubts that we need effective laws to ensure that crime does not pay. The confiscation regime is one way offenders can be deprived of any benefits they have gained through criminal conduct. Stakeholders are unanimous in their concern that the law on confiscation is unduly complex and can hamper the effective recovery of the proceeds of crime.

In this project we aim to:

  • improve the efficiency of the process by which confiscation orders are made;
  • ensure the fairness of the confiscation regime; and
  • optimise the enforcement of confiscation orders to improve the recovery rate.

Context

The Law Commission has been asked to examine and address many pressing problems with the existing confiscation regime to improve recovery rates. These problems include:

  • the challenges in effectively preventing the dissipation of criminal assets;
  • the irregular compensation of victims in confiscation proceedings;
  • the frequent imposition of unrealistic confiscation orders; and
  • the ineffective incentives and sanctions of the confiscation regime.

The complexity of the law also means the confiscation regime is inefficient. Problems with the imposition of confiscation orders result in time-consuming proceedings, judicial errors, and numerous appeals.  As Lord Hughes JSC remarked in a recent decision “not for the first time, this case concerns a technical issue relating to the construction of confiscation legislation.”

A more efficient confiscation regime would allow significant savings in court time and increase public confidence in the criminal justice system.

Scope

The review will be focussed on the regime contained in Part 2 of POCA. Although the review will consider the interplay between civil and criminal investigations in POCA, the substantive civil regimes for recovering criminal assets are beyond the scope of our review.

In reviewing Part 2 of POCA, the Law Commission has been asked to consider both potential amendments to the current legislative regime and recommendations for the creation of a new confiscation regime through legislation.

Timeline

We have recently commenced this two-year project. The first year of the project will review the current law, identify key issues and consider what an optimal confiscation regime might look like. We aim to publish a consultation paper by September 2019.

As the Law Commission commences this work we are keen to hear the views of practitioners, academics and experts with relevant experience and knowledge of the confiscation regime. A symposium, co-hosted by Northumbria University, is scheduled for 7 November 2018. To register your interest in attending this event please visit: www.northumbria.ac.uk/lawcommissionreview.

There will be numerous other stakeholder events in the course of the project to ensure that we hear the views of as many individuals and organisations as possible.

Contact

If you would like more information about the project or to share your ideas, you can contact the Law Commission at: confiscation1@lawcommission.gov.uk.

Project details

Area of law

Criminal law

Commissioner

Professor David Ormerod QC