KinsellaTax listened intently to the revelation that Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) lawyers have been in receipt of large personal bonuses linked to their triumphs in seizing criminal assets.
Approximately £1.37 million has been paid out in this way over the previous 2 financial years.
This information was unveiled courtesy of the Freedom of Information legislation but, although it was disclosed how much was paid out; it did not divulge what proportion of this money was paid out for hitting confiscation targets.
We, at KinsellaTax, are concerned that providing financial incentives in this way will undermine the criminal justice system.
Confiscation targets are also being increased year on year; the target for 2009 is:-
The CPS, which last year obtained confiscation orders totalling £116 million, also benefits in retrieving 18.5% of the money seized under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
The Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 was established to:-
“provide for confiscation orders in relation to persons who benefit from criminal conduct and for restraint orders to prohibit dealing with property, to allow the recovery of property which is or represents property obtained through lawful conduct or which is intended to be used in unlawful conduct, to make provision about money laundering, to make provision about investigations relating to benefit from criminal conduct or to property which is or represents property obtained through unlawful conduct or to money laundering, to make provision to give effect to overseas requests and orders made where property is found or believed to have been obtained through criminal conduct, and for connected purposes.”
The remaining money is split between the police and other justice departments; such as the Ministry of Justice.
Last year the asset seizure targets have been exceeded with 4,717 confiscation orders achieved against a target of 4,400 and £116 million worth of assets seized against a target of £109 million.
The powerful asset-seizure laws, introduced in 2003, to prevent crime barons from divulge in luxury lifestyles are being extended to local councils and other quangos (quasi non-governmental organisations) such as Transport for London and Royal Mail.
Andrew Bodnar, co-editor of the leading casebook on asset recovery law, said the following:-
“The incentivisation scheme is something that would make anyone who is committed to the rule of law uncomfortable.
If the prosecuting agency is given a financial incentive to prosecute then there is a danger of undermining public confidence in those agencies.”
The extension of the powers to seize assets to non-police bodies was defended by Mick Creedon, Chief Constable of Derbyshire and the senior policeman with national oversight of financial investigation:-
“The public rightly expect all public bodies to disrupt criminals whenever they can, to remove their criminal profit and to protect the public purse. To suggest that these latest developments are sinister and will focus on law-abiding members of the public is far from truth.”
The Shadow Communities Secretary has, however, expressed concern over the extension of these powers to town halls.
“We have already seen how surveillance laws designed to tackle terror and serious crime have been routinely abused and over-used by town hall officials.
I fear these new powers to inspect financial records and seize assets will also end up being misused and will divert resources in minor breaches like being late in paying a parking fine.”
It is perhaps wise then to consider the fact that although it is fair and right to confiscate assets from criminals; it may be a step too far to apply the same confiscation powers to fare dodgers.
It seems ridiculous to have a bonus culture or performance related pay for workers in these kinds of occupation.
How on earth does the Government expect the public to retain confidence in the criminal justice system when it is made public knowledge that, already +highly paid workers are being bribed with large bonuses for seizing criminal assets?
Surely this is the reason why confiscation order targets are being met as CPS lawyers are coming down hard on criminals and suspects, in order that their huge personal bonuses are paid.
And does this also mean that potentially innocent people may be the victims of asset seizures because CPS lawyers are so intent in collecting their ‘performance related pay’ that suspects are given unfair trials, hearings or representation?
If you are the target of a confiscation order in relation to unpaid tax liabilities then call KinsellaTax TODAY on 0800 471 4546.