Is Our Confiscation System Broken?

Confiscation orders are in the headlines again. The National Audit Office report published on the 17 December 2013 makes depressing yet familiar reading. The main headlines are that-  

  • The Confiscation System does not offer value for money

  • Only 26p in every £100 of criminal proceeds was confiscated in 2012-13
  • The Government has no strategy on tackling the enforcement gap

 The NAO report describes a confiscation system teetering on the brink of collapse.

 Many law enforcement agencies do not use their powers under the confiscation laws often enough.

 Less than 1% of crimes result in confiscation orders. Only 6,400 confiscation orders were made in 2012 -3. In that period 673,000 offenders were convicted of a crime, many of which had a financial element.

 Enforcement is Poor

 The fundamental problem is a lack of strategic direction and agreement on what level of confiscation would constitute success. This is compounded by poor information, lack of knowledge, outdated IT systems, data errors and ineffective sanctions.”

 While 90% of low value orders of under £1,000 are collected in full by the Courts and tribunals service there a huge gap in enforcement with large value orders.

 “The confiscation order process, which we estimate costs more than £100 million a year, is not value for money.”

 Overall, the impact of confiscation orders in tackling fraud in the economy is minimal.

 The government has not specified a target but only about 26p in every £100 of criminal proceeds was actually confiscated in 2012-13.”

 There is a case for far-reaching and urgent reform

 There is a sharp need for a coherent and joined-up cross-government strategy. At the moment this activity cannot be seen as value for money nor as a credible deterrent to crime.”

 The Public Accounts Committee is due to discuss the report on 15 January 2014. Expect some fireworks when it considers the NAO's findings.

 (Quotes from Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office, 17 December 2013)

 The original article can be found at