Criminals forced to pay back

09/12/2011

Criminals have been hit in the pocket to the tune of over £1.1 million by Staffordshire Police so far in 2011/12.

The force's Economic Crime Unit (ECU) obtained confiscation orders totalling £1,101,578 between April and November 2011 and forfeited £67,000 in cash. A further £1.1 million is held in cash pending forfeiture or confiscation hearings.

Confiscation orders, issued at court, make offenders pay the cash equivalent of their benefit from crime meaning they have to sell off homes, cars and other luxury items, such as jewellery or plasma televisions, acquired through a criminal lifestyle.

One of the most significant cases saw Stafford fraudster Paul Cope have to pay back over £406,000 in a confiscation hearing at Birmingham Crown Court in July.

Cope, who ran multiple businesses, was jailed for five years and four months a year earlier for his leading role in a £25 million fraud. As well as having to pay the order, Cope had his home - Barn Bank Manor in Hyde Lea, Stafford - four other residential properties, several business premises and cars including a Rolls Royce, Lamborghini and Ferrari, repossessed.

Another recent example of proactive work by the ECU saw officers seize £13,000 in cash from a home in Tamworth after a local PCSO reported concerns about a couple living well above their means. Officers searched the house and found a partly constructed cannabis factory. ECU investigators seized the cash under the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA).

A significant amount of money recovered by the force is used to compensate crime victims. Proceeds have been used as well to help fund Operation Nemesis - Staffordshire Police's ongoing fight against drug dealers.

POCA cash also supports community initiatives such as the Right Stuff Boxing Club, which has helped to turn around the lives of at-risk youngsters, including those in trouble with the police, across Staffordshire. The club, headed by Stone-based PC Andy Whitehall, received £10,000 to cover costs including rent, utility bills, kit and awards.

Detective Chief Inspector Paul Clews, head of the ECU, said: "Staffordshire Police continues to work closely with the Crown Prosecution Service and the courts to take the profit out of crime.

"We've now been granted confiscation orders totalling over £13 million in the last five years. There is a strong link between hitting offenders in the pocket and cutting crime and anti-social behaviour.

"As a force, we're taking positive action to turn the lives around of at-risk youngsters through initiatives such as the Right Stuff Boxing Club - and criminals are helping to pay for this.

"We will continue to strip offenders of their assets and urge anyone with information about people making an unfair living from crime to ring us on 101 or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.

Colin Molloy, Senior Sector Crown Prosecutor for West Midlands Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), Northern Sector, said: "The Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) is sending out a clear message to criminals that crime will not pay. The CPS is working hard with our partners to identify cases for restraint, freezing of assets of defendants and applications for confiscation orders. 
 
"In a recent case the judge agreed to a CPS application to confiscate £8,960. The facts are somewhat unusual, but it highlights the extensive powers provided under the legislation.
 
"In 2007, following conviction for drug-related offences, Anthony Pettigrew and Donna Hales, in addition to sentences of imprisonment, suspended in the case of M Hales, forfeited £8,734 of money found in their possession which was accepted by the court to be a small portion of their benefit realised from criminal activity. Then in 2010, the police responded to an alleged incident of domestic violence occurring at their home address, at which time they found £8,960 in cash in a bag hidden in a sock drawer. Despite contesting the application, Celia Thorpe, Senior Crown Prosecutor, successfully drafted and applied for a variation of the original order resulting in the judge confiscating the money found.
 
"The actions of the CPS lawyer have resulted in the defendants being deprived in total of £17,714 which is the sum regarded as representing criminal proceeds of crime."    

More details about asset recovery in Staffordshire are available at www.staffordshire.police.uk/payback