POCA – Serious Crime Bill

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Earlier this month, The Queen announced the annual government legislative agenda for the coming year. The prime minister hailed it as a ‘packed programme of a busy and radical government’. Though ironically, it was the shortest annual speech in the past decade with just 11 new bills announced, put into perspective in comparison to Tony Blair’s 32 bills in 2004. The amendments to the Serious Crime Bill were announced as the 10th bill put forward to MP’s and peers in the House of Lords.

The Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (POCA) is part of the Serious Crime Bill. Here at O’Garras Solictors, our experts in POCA have been keeping a close eye on the proposed amendments. We’ve listed out a handful of interesting points to bring to your attention.

Third party claims

The payment of confiscation orders can be delayed by third parties making claims on assets that are a part of that order. Changes made to clause 1-4 mean prosecutors will now have to set out any known details of third party interests in their statement of information in court. This means the court will have the power to determine how involved the third party is with regards the defendant’s property, before the confiscation order was made- speeding up the confiscation stage and making it more efficient.

Default sentences

If a confiscation order is un-paid past it’s due date, a defendant will be sentenced with a prison order. Clause 10 of the bill increases the maximum time a defendant can spend in prison where the order is more than £500,000. The maximum sentence has increased from 5 to 7 years for orders of more than £500,000 and 10 to 14 years for orders of more than £1 million.

Travel Bans

Changes to clause 7 of the bill state that the court will be required to consider putting any orders in place to ensure the confiscation is paid. This includes restricting overseas travel.

Writing off a conviction where the defendant has died

Under section 25 of POCA, it is possible to end a confiscation order where most of the sum has been paid, but a small amount (£50) is outstanding. Clause 8 now states that it is now possible for confiscation orders to be discharged where the defendant has died. Also, now prosecutors can now apply to vary or reduce orders given to defendants- where as previously only the court or defendant had the power to do this. This change will be particularly relevant when the defendant has died.

A full list of amendments to POCA can be found here.

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