Proceeds of crime

Proceeds of crime is the term given to money or assets gained by criminals during the course of their criminal activity. The authorities, including the CPS, have powers to seek to confiscate these assets so that crime doesn’t pay. By taking out the profits that fund crime, we can help disrupt the cycle and prevent further offences. 

The CPS has a specialist unit – CPS Proceeds of Crime (CPSPOC) – which is dedicated to asset recovery.

The work of CPSPOC 

CPSPOC is a national service dedicated to asset recovery work. It owns the CPS Asset Recovery Strategy, which supports the Government’s Serious and Organised Crime Strategy, in its aim of substantially reducing the level of serious and organised crime affecting the UK and its interests.

CPSPOC works with law enforcement agencies including the police, the National Crime Agency, Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs and the Department for Work & Pensions, as well as Regional Asset Recovery Teams (multi-agency), Asset Confiscation Enforcement teams (police & NCA), HM Courts & Tribunal Service and the Home Office.

How are the proceeds of crime recovered?

Restraint orders Toggle accordion

A restraint order is obtained in order to preserve a suspect/defendant’s assets until a confiscation order is paid in full.  It can be obtained from the Crown Court at any time from the start of an investigation.  A restraint order can also be obtained to preserve assets for reconsideration applications and when obtaining confiscation orders against absconded defendants.

CPSPOC can apply to the Crown Court for the appointment of a Management Receiver in cases where the assets being preserved need to be actively managed. If granted, a Management Receiver will be given certain powers to allow him/her to manage the assets of the defendant to maintain their value. This can include being given power to sell the assets to stop them reducing in value. The Management Receiver is paid from the assets that he/she manages.

Confiscation orders Toggle accordion

A confiscation order is an order of the Crown Court which requires a convicted defendant to pay a sum of money to HMCTS immediately or, if he/she shows that he/she needs time to pay it, within a fixed period of time (initially limited to a maximum of 3 months, which is extendable to a total of 6 months).

An application for a confiscation order is considered as part of the sentencing process. The Crown Court will determine the defendant’s benefit from their offending - this is calculated by reference to the value of the property or financial advantage that a defendant has obtained from his criminal conduct.  It can also extend to assets other than those relating to the offence for which the defendant is convicted subject to certain qualifying criteria being met.

The Crown Court will also determine the available amount - this is calculated by reference to the value of the defendant’s realisable assets less any payments that take priority over a confiscation order and any tainted gifts made by him/her.

The defendant will be ordered to pay the benefit from his/her criminal conduct unless he/she can show that some or all of it is no longer available.  If he/she can do so, he/she will be required to pay the available amount.

The Crown Court will also fix a period of imprisonment to be served if the defendant fails to pay the confiscation order. The length of the sentence is fixed by reference to the amount of the confiscation order. This is called the ‘default sentence’.

If the defendant’s assets realise less than the amount of the confiscation order, he/she can apply to the Crown Court for a reduction of the order. He/she must show that his assets are not sufficient to pay the order. The court will take into account all of his/her assets at the time of the making of the application including any that he/she has obtained after the making of the order. However the court will not take into account any insufficiency that he/she causes to stop the order being paid.

If the value of the defendant’s available amount is less than the benefit from his/her  offending and it is subsequently discovered that he/she has further realisable assets, a prosecutor can apply  to the Crown Court for an increase in the amount of the confiscation order.

Enforcement of confiscation orders Toggle accordion

A confiscation order is payable to the magistrates’ court. Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunal Service is ultimately responsible for collecting the debt owed by a defendant on a confiscation order.

CPSPOC takes responsibility for enforcing the most complex confiscation orders, which require the use of powers available to a prosecutor. CPSPOC becomes the lead enforcement agency for the confiscation orders we enforce.

The vast majority of confiscation orders are enforced by HMCTS using the powers available to the magistrates’ court as they are less complex and, therefore, do not require the use of powers available to a prosecutor. HMCTS becomes the lead enforcement agency for the orders they enforce.

When enforcing a confiscation order CPSPOC will engage with the defendant (or their representative), the police, financial institutions, estate agents and others in order to assist the defendant to pay the order.

If a defendant fails to pay his/her confiscation order, the magistrates' court will consider why this has happened and whether to order him/her to serve the default sentence. For confiscation orders made after the 1st November 1995, serving the default sentence will not wipe out the amount owed by a defendant.

 The CPSPOC can use other methods to collect the amount owed. CPSPOC can apply to the Crown Court for the appointment of an Enforcement Receiver. If granted, an Enforcement Receiver will be given certain powers to allow him/her to sell the assets of the defendant and pay the order. An Enforcement Receiver in an independent officer of the court and is not part of the prosecution team.

Civil recovery Toggle accordion

The proceeds of crime can be recovered in civil proceedings in the High Court against property which can be shown to be the proceeds of crime.

Civil Recovery can be used when it is not possible to obtain a conviction or a conviction is obtained but a confiscation order is not made or the public interest will be better served by using civil recovery rather than by seeking a confiscation order. This will include where suspects have gone abroad to escape an investigation or the offending has taken place overseas so it cannot be prosecuted in UK courts.

The CPS can apply for a freezing order to preserve the assets until a civil recovery order has been made.

The CPS can also apply to appoint an Interim Receiver where the assets for civil recovery need to be investigated. The Interim Receiver has power to preserve the assets whilst he investigates them.

International recovery Toggle accordion

Organised crime works across borders and criminals often hide assets overseas.

The CPS works to recover assets from overseas. We can preserve and recover assets overseas with the assistance of the overseas authorities.

CPSPOC can also assist overseas authorities to recover assets in the UK for criminals being prosecuted in those countries.

The CPS has lawyers based overseas with expertise and experience in asset recovery in order to work in partnership with overseas authorities to recover assets.

Compensation for victims

A defendant can be ordered to pay:

i) a compensation order for the injury, loss or damage a victim may have experienced as a result of the crime and

ii)  a confiscation order which deprives the defendant of the proceeds of his/her crime. 

Where a defendant cannot afford to pay both orders, the court will order him/her to pay the confiscation order and direct that those payments are used to pay the compensation order first.  This way you will receive compensation and the defendant gets credit towards his/her confiscation order for those payments.

The court sets a final date by when the defendant must pay your compensation order.  Some defendants pay their orders in full in one instalment, others pay in instalments.  If you are the only victim awarded compensation, all of the money paid by the defendant will be paid to you. If there are other victims who were also awarded compensation, the money paid by the defendant will be divided between each of you. Each time the defendant makes a payment; you will receive a payment towards your compensation order, until it is paid in full or varied by the court.

The defendant can appeal the confiscation and compensation orders. If that happens, you will be notified of the outcome if the compensation order is reduced or revoked.

The defendant can also apply to the Crown Court to vary the amount of confiscation he/she has to pay. The Crown Court will consider how much the defendant has paid and what evidence there is that the defendant can afford to pay more. If the court is satisfied that the defendant cannot afford to pay more and has no more property to sell, the court will decrease the amount of confiscation the defendant has to pay to equal the amount s/he has already paid.

If the defendant needs more time to pay, he can apply to the Crown Court for an extension. The maximum time allowed is six months. If the time to pay the confiscation order is extended, it may delay when you receive your compensation.

Your compensation order can only be varied by the Magistrates’ Court. If this happens, then HMCTS will update you.

Further reading