Police clamp down on ill-gotten gains

IN just 12 months Suffolk's forces of law and order have clawed back nearly �600,000 from criminals under the Proceeds of Crime Act. Crime correspondent COLIN ADWENT reports on a new campaign urging the public to play their part in hitting villains in the pocket.

IN just 12 months Suffolk's forces of law and order have clawed back nearly �600,000 from criminals under the Proceeds of Crime Act. Crime correspondent COLIN ADWENT reports on a new campaign urging the public to play their part in hitting villains in the pocket.

LAW-abiding Suffolk residents are today being urged to step up their efforts to prevent criminals profiting from their crimes.

A major publicity campaign is trumpeting the successes law enforcement agencies have had so far in retrieving assets obtained illegally by villains.

The initiative, which is launched today, also encourages more people to come forward in the battle to ensure crime does not pay.

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Although the powers given to the justice system under the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) have been in place for several years, increasing amounts of money are being seized every year.

In Suffolk during the last financial year confiscation orders to the value of �589,201.53 were granted by Ipswich Crown Court as a result of criminal convictions.

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In addition �144,840.88 in cash was seized by Suffolk police using their civil powers under the law.

In April, May and June of this year criminals have been ordered to pay back a total of nearly �90,000 or face further jail time, in confiscation hearings.

Under POCA, police can strip criminals of any assets funded through crime. The legislation is designed to act as a deterrent to those thinking of breaking the law.

Locally, POCA is driven by Suffolk Criminal Justice Board, which brings together all the criminal justice agencies, including police specialist financial investigators, Crown Prosecution Service specialist lawyers and HM Court Services.

Detective Sergeant Andy Gould who heads up Suffolk Constabulary's financial investigation unit, said: “These results represent the culmination of hard work, patience and determination by the police officers, financial investigators and CPS lawyers involved in bringing these offenders to justice.

“The powers provided by the Proceeds of Crime Act enable us to demonstrate to the public that crime doesn't pay and I hope this sends out a clear message to those who engage in any type of criminal activity that we can and will seize their assets if they have been funded by crime.

“I want to remind members of the public that if they suspect anyone is benefiting from crime to call Crimestoppers anonymously and in the strictest confidence on 0800 555 111.”

Alternatively people can give information anonymously through the Crimestoppers website www.crimestoppers-uk.org

WHILE criminals leading lavish lives believe they can get away with their crimes, Suffolk residents can help stop them in their tracks.

The 'Make Criminals Pay' campaign encourages the public to call Crimestoppers anonymously to identify those they suspect are living a lavish lifestyle from the proceeds of crime.

The police and other agencies use of the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) as a weapon to strip criminals of assets.

Any cash or property funded through illegal activity is being targeted in an attempt to bankrupt their criminal enterprises.

The spotlight is firmly focussed on drug dealers, car thieves, rogue traders, those dealing in counterfeit goods, and burglars.

POCA ensures that often it falls to them to prove they obtained their wealth legitimately.

This is difficult to do if they are flaunting a nice home, top-of-the-range car, expensive jewellery and have thousands of pounds stashed away when their known income cannot support such wealth.

Detective Sergeant Andy Gould said: “Your calls will help put a stop to those negative role models blighting our communities, who think it's acceptable to live a lifestyle from the proceeds of crime. We'll show them it's not.

“POCA has a real sting in its tail. In some cases a criminal's cash can be taken from them, through the cash seizure powers afforded to the police by the POCA legislation, even if they are not convicted of a crime.

Suffolk Crimestoppers chairman Liz Harlaar added: “Crimestoppers is delighted to be supporting this worthwhile campaign.

“I would like to reassure members of the public, any calls to Crimestoppers are completely anonymous.

“You will not be asked for your name and you will not have to give a statement to the police.”

N In Suffolk during 2008/09, POCA Confiscation Orders to the value of �589,201.53 were granted.

N A total of �144,840.88 in cash was forfeited at South East Suffolk Magistrates Court, as a result of applications by police.

N Around �7million of assets belonging to suspected criminals is currently frozen in Suffolk.

N More than 40 court orders are in place

N Half the value of assets seized is divided between Suffolk police, the CPS and HM Court Service.

N From April to June 2009, a total of 18 POCA Confiscation Orders were made.

N Their total value comes to �88,799.62.

N Nationally �135.7million was recovered in 2007/08.

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