I am today laying before Parliament the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (POCA) appointed person report covering England and Wales for the period 2021-22. The appointed person is independent of Government and scrutinises the circumstances and manner in which search and seizure powers conferred by the Act are exercised under particular circumstances.
I am pleased that we are now able to publish the appointed person’s latest report. Having considered the circumstances in which the relevant powers were used, the appointed person is satisfied that the criteria required for justifying the searches without prior judicial approval were met and that the powers of search were exercised appropriately.
In 2021-22, there has been a decrease in the number of cases where search and seizure powers are used without prior approval, although we are seeing a number of new agencies report across the country that have not submitted reports previously. Notably, three separate cases related to the seizure of cryptoassets. Seizing cryptoassets without judicial approval is largely due to agencies having to move quickly before the assets are accessed from another device and moved elsewhere. Proposed reforms in the Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill are designed to enable the seizure of cryptoassets in more circumstances than at present.
The appointed person has also recognised our progress against previous recommendations and has made no new recommendations for the period. This suggests that the powers are being used in accordance with the Act. These powers are important for agencies to act quickly in live operation to search and seize potential criminal assets, so we are pleased to see that they are being used appropriately. We will continue to monitor the way that the powers have been used closely.
Copies of the report will be available in the Vote Office.