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The Course of Confiscation
 

In January 2009 a solicitor wrote to two forensic accountants seeking quotes on behalf of his client who was involved in divorce proceedings. After receiving the two quotes nothing more was heard from him because the solicitor himself had become the subject of court proceedings. He had been arrested for the social supply of drugs at a party and was subsequently convicted. Although he avoided a prison sentence and continued to operate as a solicitor he was served with a Statement of Information under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002. The Statement calculated the solicitor’s benefit from crime at just under £800,000 over a six year period. This was the only Statement of Information issued by the Crown in the course of the confiscation proceedings. However the Crown did, from time to time, produce new calculations of the alleged benefit, each calculation being lower than the previous one.


By June of 2010 the Crown accountant calculated the alleged benefit at a much lower figure of around £100,000. The accountant stated that, in contrast to many such cases, she could find no transactions that appeared to represent proceeds of crime. Despite this, she sought “vouching” for the bank lodgements that were included in the £100,000. The defence asked the bank to provide copies of deposit slips and the cheques lodged. However most of these cheques had been returned to the originating banks and were therefore unavailable. Some deposit slips had been misfiled by the local branch. Many deposit slips that were found lacked the sort code of the issuing bank. Therefore, in practice it proved impossible to obtain all the “vouching” sought by the Crown.


By December 2010 the Crown figure for alleged benefit had reduced to some £25,000. For some time the defence had believed that the Crown wished to drop proceedings but that it needed a valid reason to do so. At this point the Crown ceased to ask for “vouching” and instead asked for explanations for the remaining unexplained bank lodgements. The defence was able to provide these, and the Crown abandoned proceedings in April 2011.