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CPS has mixed response to the joint thematic casework review of asset recovery

25/03/2010

The CPS has welcomed some key findings of the Inspectorate’s report on asset recovery, including the fact that the amount of criminal assets recovered each year has increased from £21 million to £135 million in the seven years to 2007-08. Performance has further improved to £148 million in 2008-09.

However, the Crown Prosecution Service does not accept all the findings of the Inspectorate's report into asset recovery, according to the organisation's Chief Operating Officer, Mike Kennedy.

Mr Kennedy said: "The CPS has worked very hard to 'mainstream' asset recovery into the day-to-day work of our prosecutors since the implementation of the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) in 2002. Since 2002, each CPS area has at least two POCA champions who receive regular training and who also have trained lawyers and caseworkers in their respective areas.

"I am pleased that the Inspectorate has described the enforcement work of our POCA champions as proportionate and effective, and has recognised their commitment and skills."

The report says that it is unlikely that the ambitious target of £250 million of criminal assets recovery for 2009-10 will be achieved and gave two main reasons for this:

  • that not all cases where restraint and confiscation may be appropriate are identified as such; and
  • Where there are recoverable assets these are not always identified and frozen in time.

Mr Kennedy said: "I am concerned by these main findings as I do not think that they can be justified on the evidence.  The CPS has consistently met its confiscation volume and value targets and restraint targets.

"The report only considered confiscation and did not examine performance on civil recovery, tax and cash forfeiture, which should be responsible for at least 40% of the £250m target.

"Confiscation has been the best performing stream within asset recovery and the CPS has consistently met or surpassed its national enforcement targets until last year; however the report does not include any proper acknowledgement of the increases in confiscation performance by the CPS and its partner agencies since 2002.

"It is also incorrect to say that restraint orders are 'hardly used' as the volume of these orders, which freeze suspected criminal assets pending the outcome of a trial, has increased from about 70 in 2002 to 1463 orders in 2008-09.

"The report identifies issues relating to the advice given by our charging lawyers on asset recovery. We will address this with further targeted training.

"The CPS has improved its service and performance in this area of work significantly and we will continue to do so.  We are already addressing some of the issues that have been raised in this report."

CPS performance has increased from 1100 confiscation orders to a value of £27.3m and approximately 70 restraint orders in 2002 to 4920 confiscation orders to a value of £145m and 1463 restraint orders in the year 2008-09. Over the same period, enforcement in respect of CPS confiscation orders has increased from about £8 million to over £66 million.