What is a Confiscation Order

Ensuring reprobates don't profit from their acts

If a person has been convicted of a crime, they might still be able to benefit from their crimes. If a famous diamond thief, for example, is arrested and put in prison but the police have been unable to locate all of the missing diamonds, it is probably the case that the thief will benefit financially from the hidden presence of these diamonds when he is released, thereby cocking a snook at the very principles of justice.

The police might therefore in such a situation feel the need to issue a confiscation order against the master thief to try and ensure that the he cannot benefit from the proceeds of his jewel-stealing crime spree. Confiscation orders are designed to ensure that crime, as the old adage goes, doesn't pay.

What is a Confiscation Order?

A Confiscation Order is a proceeding initiated in the Crown Court that is concerned with the ‘benefit’ that a person who has been convicted may gain from their criminal conduct. A confiscation order can not be obtained against a person who has not yet been convicted of any criminal offence; this is in contrast to Civil Recovery orders or Restraint orders.

When a person has a confiscation order issued against them it essentially amounts to the benefit they have gained from their criminal acts as well as their available assets being added up. The order is then made to confiscate an amount which is less than the sum of both. This is effectively like a fine, with the person being ordered having to pay the amount within a period of six months, unless the court decides to extend that time frame. In certain special situations, the court may decide that the defendant’s expenditure and income up to six years before their conviction was obtained through criminality and factor this into their calculation. Property that is confiscated from an individual may be sold by the state to make good on the value that is due.    

The benefit that has been derived by the defendant’s criminal activities is defined as the proceeds of the relevant offence. This includes the full value of every asset that was deemed to have been partly or wholly attained with the proceeds of the offence.  This means that if our jewel thief stole a diamond worth £1,000 and used the proceeds of that crime to buy a £50,000 fishing boat, the boat is wholly considered as part of the benefit. Benefit, in this sense, may be closer to what some people would turnover rather then outright profit.

Confiscation Orders are the product of legislation that was originally contained in the Criminal Justice Act of 1988 and later in the Drug Trafficking Act 1994 that was amended in the Proceeds of Crime Act 1995. Some of the specific provisions contained in these earlier statutes are still found to be relevant in some cases. However, the most relevant piece of legislation involving Confiscation Orders in recent times has been the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (POCA).   

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