Account Freezing Orders - The UK’s Quiet Revolution in White Collar Enforcement

United KingdomScotland

Why should this be on your radar?

The Criminal Finances Act 2017 is a low-profile piece of legislation which has quietly revolutionised the investigation and enforcement of financial crime in England and Wales. It has amended the Proceeds of Crime Act in a way which now makes it very easy for police authorities to freeze assets, money or bank accounts which may well be in the hands of lawful, respectable companies or inpiduals.

These powers have an insidious effect. Though not expressed to do so, the way they are operated effectively forces anyone holding property or bank balances which the authorities wish to investigate into proving a negative. They must, in essence, prove that that they have been acquired legitimately or are being held for legitimate purposes.

Making it worse is the fact that the courts of original jurisdiction are Magistrates Courts. These courts carry out a vital function within the criminal justice system, but the vast majority are completely un-equipped to deal with complex matters of property law, company law, agency law or commercial practice which arise when considering these issues. So in many cases, these orders may be obtained without any scrutiny by a full-time judge.

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