Can the Police Freeze your Assets?

Over the next few months we will take a look at the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002, legislation designed to recover the proceeds of criminal offending.  First up, we look at Restraint Orders, where property is frozen in anticipation of seizure.

There are certain circumstances when the Police could freeze your bank account, your property, and your business, even when you have not even been charged with an offence.  This is known as a Restraint Order.

Under s40 of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002, the Police can ask a Prosecutor to apply to the Crown Court to restrain the assets of someone who is:

(1)    Subject to a criminal investigation, even where there has been no charge;

(2)    Facing court proceedings for an offence;

And there is reasonable cause to believe that the person has benefitted from criminal conduct.

Restraint Orders can also be made where the Prosecution are appealing the Court’s decision not to make a Confiscation Order.

The application will be made to the Court ex parte, without notice to the restrained party.  The first time you would hear you were subject to a Restraint Order is when the police serve you with the Order, or when you cannot access your bank account!  The Restraint Order will usually restrain specific bank accounts and property, but may have a clause stating that any property you own, even that not known to the Police, is restrained.

Under the Act the Court can make provision for reasonable living expenses and legal expenses and can make provisions that enable a restrained business to continue trading. Breaching the Restraint Order could be a contempt of Court and could result in a fine or even a prison sentence.

If you find yourself subject to a Restraint Order you should contact a solicitor immediately.  emeryjohnson can advise you on what you can and can’t do when your property is restrained, and can help you make an application to vary or discharge the Order.

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