The purpose of POCA 2002 was to confiscate and / or recover the proceeds from crime. Whilst confiscation proceedings are instituted after a conviction in the criminal courts, civil recovery proceedings are concerned with the proceeds of crime from unconvicted defendants through the civil courts. That means that there is no jury and the burden of proof is on the lower civil standard of the ‘balance of probabilities’ as opposed to ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ in the criminal courts.
It is important to understand that civil recovery proceedings are brought ‘in rem’ rather than ‘in personam’. Accordingly, they are only concerned with whether the property is recoverable property for the purposes of ss.242 and 243. The question for the courts therefore is whether the property was obtained through unlawful conduct. There is no need to establish that a Respondent had knowledge or was involved in a crime, but simply whether the property is ‘recoverable’.
Civil recovery proceedings are commenced under Part 5 of POCA 2002, and start with the NCA making an application for a Property Freezing Order. That application is made ex-parte and will essentially ‘freeze’ the Respondent’s bank account and prevent their assets. The NCA are able to recover any property, including (but not limited to) money in bank accounts, vehicles and houses.
The proceedings often affect family members, friends and associates who may be subject to a disclosure order compelling them to disclose information and / or attend an interview with investigating officers to provide information on how the property in question was obtained by a Respondent.
If you are served with a PFO and / or are facing civil recovery proceedings, it is important that you make urgent contact with lawyers with relevant experience. We have a team of white collar crime and civil litigation solicitors, which means that we can provide you with expert advice on this niche area of law.