Communities to benefit as police strip £1.4m crime profits

SUSSEX Police has stripped away more than £1.4 million of profit from criminals over the past year.

Friday, 25th July 2014, 10:45 am

The news comes as the force announced this month that it had achieved its best ever result in terms of confiscation orders issued under the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA).

Five convicted defendants in a major national horse-race betting brochure fraud have been served with confiscation orders for a total of £7.6 million.

Using powers under POCA, the force had successfully applied to courts during the financial year 2013/14 for 109 confiscation orders following criminal convictions, valued at £1,492,750.

The force also obtained 28 civil forfeiture orders valued at £138,482, following cash seizures from suspected offenders and a further £17,277 in other forfeitures.

Nowhere is safe for criminals

Detective Inspector Mick Richards of the force’s economic crime unit said the latest results were down to the steadfast work of the force and its expert financial investigators.

“We now target not just the criminals but also the profits of their crimes, whether they are from drug dealing or any other form of criminal activity,” he said. “It can take time and each investigation is subject of an application for a court-authorised confiscation order.

“Criminals need to know that where we think they have profits, hidden though they may be, we don’t give up after sentencing.

“Financial investigation is increasingly at the heart of all criminal investigation.”

POCA also allows for cash to be seized under civil forfeiture if it is suspected to be from a crime or that it could be used for an unlawful purpose.

DI Richards added: “It does not require anyone to be prosecuted for a criminal offence, rather that magistrates deem it to have been obtained as a result of a criminal enterprise, or intended in the future for such use based on the evidence surrounding its discovery.

“Any money confiscated and put into the national exchequer is ploughed back to support further financial investigations and also into the wider community through worthwhile local projects.”

Community cash windfall

The cash goes first to the Government exchequer with half of it then coming back to law enforcement, nationally.

Sussex Police can then use this money to support the work of the force’s financial investigators or as local donations to Sussex-based crime reduction and community schemes.

Last year, the force supported 13 projects with cash returned from previous years through grants under the Sussex Police Community Cashback initiative, in partnership with Sussex Community Foundation.

DI Richards said; “The fact that this money has been taken from criminals and is going back into our local communities gives us great satisfaction. It has been a very humbling experience to see the extent of voluntary and community work being carried out across Sussex, and we plan to do the same this year.”

Sussex police and crime commissioner Katy Bourne said: “I think it is absolutely right that proceeds of crime should be removed from criminals and for that money to be reinvested directly back into our local communities to fund initiatives that prevent and deter crime, improve community safety, and support victims.”