13 October 2014 / by Crime/ in
The Failing Regime…Confiscation Orders
Although the concept of confiscation orders has the potential to deter criminal activity and reassure the public that justice is being done, the effectiveness of the process in practice has been heavily criticised by the House of Commons, Public Accounts Committee who at the beginning of the year stressed the urgent need for reform due to the failings of the current system. The Committee highlighted that between 2012 and 2013 only 26 pence out of every £100 generated by criminal activity was collected by the authorities and as a result the Committee put pressure on the responsible bodies to ensure that opportunities to impose confiscation orders are not missed in the future.
A few months after the Committee’s report was published, the government announced proposed reforms in the Serious Crime Bill 2014 which are expected to come into effect in 2015. The potential impact that some of the proposed reforms will have on the current system is discussed below.
The reforms have also proposed to halve the maximum time allowed for payment, reducing the initial period from six months to three months. It is questionable however if limiting the time available for payment will have a significant impact on the amount of money received by the confiscation authorities bearing in mind that in 2013 only 18% of confiscation orders that were over £1 million were successfully collected.
In a bid to strengthen the sanctions and increase payments towards the confiscation orders the maximum default sentence will be amended if payment is not made. The new terms will range from 6 months for an amount not exceeding £10,000 and up to 14 years for an amount exceeding £1 million. As well as the increase in the term, if a confiscation order is made for an amount in excess of £10 million, the new provisions will mean that the full 14 years of the default sentence may have to be served. This reform seems promising in light of the criticism of the current sanctions; however at the beginning of 2014 over £500 million was outstanding in relation to confiscation orders and it seems criminals are willing to serve lengthy prison terms rather than satisfying orders, especially where they are involved in high value cases.