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Proceeds of Crime: Civil Proceedings

Volume 485: debated on Thursday 18 December 2008

To ask the Solicitor-General what consideration the Crown Prosecution Service gave to including reference to the use of civil recovery powers in its Memorandum of Understanding with the Association of Chief Police Officers on pursuing criminal assets. (243799)

A service level agreement (SLA) between the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), dealing with applications under the Proceeds of Crime Act, was signed in November 2002 and predates the granting of civil recovery powers to the CPS.

Existing referral processes from CPS staff to headquarters do not require any amendment to the SLA. In the event that police investigators are trained to undertake free standing civil recovery investigations, the SLA will have to be revisited.

To ask the Solicitor-General what steps have been taken to facilitate the (a) Crown Prosecution Service, (b) the Director of Public Prosecutions for Northern Ireland, (c) the Serious Fraud Office and (d) the Revenue and Customs Prosecutions Office discharging new responsibilities for civil recovery action; what funding has been provided to each to reflect these new responsibilities; and how many (i) lawyers and (ii) investigations have been employed by each to discharge such functions. (243919)

The information is as follows:

(a) The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) staff across all 42 CPS areas have been asked to refer potential civil recovery cases to the Proceeds of Crime Delivery Unit in CPS headquarters for consideration. Cases to be dealt with by the CPS are passed to the Central Confiscation Unit of the Organised Crime Division, which currently undertakes asset recovery and other civil work in the High Court, and has been given responsibility for civil recovery actions. Other cases are passed to the Serious Organised Crime Agency.

No additional funding has been provided to the CPS to reflect these new responsibilities. However, the Home Office Recovered Assets Incentive Scheme has been amended to enable the CPS to benefit in respect of successful civil recovery actions.

No additional lawyers or investigators have yet been specifically recruited by the CPS to undertake civil recovery work.

(b) The Public Prosecution Service (PPS) has been in discussion with SOCA to develop a memorandum of understanding to provide advice and assistance between the PPS and SOCA including arrangements to deal with civil recovery cases. In the short term, SOCA is responsible for civil recovery. The PPS remains responsible for criminal confiscation following conviction.

To date, no new funding has been provided. No additional lawyers have been recruited to discharge these functions. There have been no investigations in Northern Ireland conducted by the PPS.

(c) The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) recently completed an in-depth review of its approach to all aspects of proceeds of crime activity. This review resulted in a number of recommendations to the director, who has since formed a dedicated Proceeds of Crime Team. The structure of this team is being finalised, with resources being drawn from across the organisation. The team will be fully operational by April 2009.

The team will be responsible for conducting civil recovery investigations in suitable cases. Once the team has achieved accreditation through the National Policing Improvement Agency, they will have the necessary investigative powers to conduct civil recovery investigations under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002. At present, there are no resources dedicated to civil recovery investigations within the SFO.

The civil recovery settlement with Balfour Beatty plc. in October this year, which brought in £2.5 million for the Government, approximately £1 million has been made available to the SFO to be invested in asset recovery work. No additional funding has been provided to the SFO in respect of civil recovery work and the team is being funded through the Asset Recovery Incentivisation Scheme.

(d) To date, Revenue and Customs Prosecutions Office have not instituted any civil recovery proceedings. No additional funding has been allocated for this work and any such activity would be funded from existing resources.

No staff have been specifically employed to discharge these particular responsibilities.

To ask the Solicitor-General how many of the (a) investigators and (b) lawyers employed by the (i) Crown Prosecution Service, (ii) the Public Prosecution Office in Northern Ireland, (iii) the Serious Fraud Office and (iv) the Revenue and Customs Prosecution Office have received specific training in civil recovery investigations and litigation in the first six months of this financial year; how many civil recovery investigations were commenced by each agency in that period; in how many such cases assets have been restrained; and what the value of such assets is. (243920)

The information is as follows:

(i) The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) does not employ any investigators for civil recovery work. Two senior lawyers have been involved in preparing the CPS for the application of these new powers.

The CPS has considered three potential civil recovery cases since April. Two were considered not suitable for civil recovery and one is now being taken forward abroad through mutual legal assistance.

(ii) No training in civil recovery matters has been delivered during the first six months of the financial year.

The Public Prosecution Service (PPS) have not commenced any civil recovery investigations during this period and consequently no assets have been restrained by PPS.

(iii) Serious Fraud Office (SFO) investigators and lawyers attend seminars and conferences on civil recovery as part of their continuing professional development.

The SFO has not commenced any civil recovery investigations within the specified period. The first civil recovery settlement was reached with Balfour Beatty plc. in October this year. No assets were restrained in this case.

(iv) Five lawyers within Revenue and Customs Prosecutions Office’s (RCPO) asset forfeiture division attended training on confiscation and civil recovery in June 2008.

RCPO has not instituted any civil recovery investigations in this financial year, therefore no assets have been restrained on this basis.

To ask the Solicitor-General what plans the Serious Fraud Office has for action in civil recovery; and when she expects these to be implemented. (243928)

The Director of the Serious Fraud Office has encouraged all staff to consider the full range of prosecutorial tools when assessing the appropriate disposal of a case, including civil recovery orders.

The Law Officers' Departments will continue working closely together to consider and develop appropriate policy guidance for use of these orders over the next year.

To ask the Solicitor-General what budget allocation has been made for civil recovery work in the Revenue and Customs Prosecution Office in (a) 2008-09 and (b) 2009-10. (243929)

In RCPO no budget allocation has been made for civil recovery work for either 2008-09 or 2009-10. Funding is to be provided from our existing resources.

To ask the Solicitor-General what arrangements have been put in place in the Crown Prosecution Service to enable the Service to discharge its newly acquired responsibilities for civil recovery; when arrangements will be implemented; and what budget has been allocated for civil recovery work in (a) 2008-09 and (b) 2009-10. (243930)

Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) staff across all 42 CPS areas have been asked to refer all potential civil recovery cases to the Proceeds of Crime Delivery Unit (POCDU) within CPS headquarters for consideration. POCDU considers a number of routes for potential civil recovery cases. Where the case meets the legal requirements for civil recovery and appears viable, it will either be referred to the Central Confiscation Unit within CPS headquarters or to the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA). SOCA has agreed to consider civil recovery referrals from the CPS for a period of three years on the same basis as the former Assets Recovery Agency (ARA).

No discrete budget has been allocated for civil recovery work either across CPS areas, or within the Central Confiscation Unit. Civil recovery has been mainstreamed alongside other asset recovery work. No funding has been provided to the CPS for 2008-09 or 2009-10, however, the Home Office Recovered Assets Incentive Scheme has been amended to enable the CPS to benefit in respect of successful civil recovery actions.