The Proceeds of Crime Act 2002—POCA—appointed person reports covering England and Wales for the period 2017-18 to 2020-21 are today being laid before Parliament.
The appointed person is independent of Government and scrutinises the circumstances and manner in which the search and seizure powers conferred by the Act are exercised in instances where prior approval is not gained from a justice of the peace and either no seizures are made or any cash or property seized is not detained for more than 48 hours.
I am pleased that we are now able to publish Mr McCourt’s reports covering the period from 2017-18 to 2020-21.
The House will note that there has been a delay in publishing the appointed person reports since the 2016-17 report, when the previous office holder’s tenure ended. Greg McCourt was subsequently appointed to the role for each of the three jurisdictions—England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland—with effect from 1 August 2019. Despite the pressures and challenges of covid, since his appointment he has been working across the jurisdictions and with POCA stakeholders to receive and assess reports on the use of the relevant powers of search and seizure.
Importantly, Mr McCourt is satisfied with the operation of the powers in the period. There is nothing to suggest that the procedures are not being followed in accordance with the Act. While the figures for 2019-20 and 2020-21 show a small increase in the number of reported cases, that reflects more regular use of the powers in a broader range of live police operations, supporting the recovery of the proceeds of crime whenever they are encountered.
Mr McCourt has made two recommendations: first, that a template should be developed to standardise the information that law enforcement officers provide; and secondly, that law enforcement agencies be regularly reminded of their reporting requirements under the Act. I support Mr McCourt’s recommendations and my officials will work with him and our stakeholders to implement both.
These powers are a valuable tool in the fight against crime. As the reports show, these powers have been used appropriately to combat crime. We will continue to monitor closely the way the powers have been used. Copies of the reports will be available in the Vote Office.