The Magistrate's Blog (2005-2012)

This blog has migrated to www.magistratesblog.blogspot.co.uk This blog is anonymous, and Bystander's views are his and his alone. Where his views differ from the letter of the law, he will enforce the letter of the law because that is what he has sworn to do. If you think that you can identify a particular case from one of the posts you are wrong. Enough facts are changed to preserve the truth of the tale but to disguise its exact source.

My Photo
Location: Near London, United Kingdom

The blog is written by a retired JP, with over 30 years' experience on the Bench.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005


Well, I'm home. The three-day case lasted fifteen minutes. The case was about the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) which is one of the civil matters that magistrates are called on to handle, and the chap whose funds had been seized threw in the towel. So I've got tomorrow off, but they want me and my colleagues back on Friday because the court has loads of work on and another bench will come in handy. It will also make the management happy by keeping the stats for courtroom usage nicely up to scratch.

POCA is another one of those laws that sometimes takes people by surprise. What it boils down to is that if you have cash or assets that look suspiciously large you may be required to account for them with a proper audit trail. The court hears evidence and then decides on the civil standard of the Balance of Probabilities whether or not the money is the proceeds of crime. If it is, the court will seize the cash. The classic case is the drug dealer who is living on benefit but who has £5,000 in soiled readies hidden under a floorboard. Another target is the wide-boy type who lives in a flash house with a luxury lifestyle, but has no visible means of support. The Government has deployed the new Asset Recovery Agency to sniff out these people, and has staffed it with squads of accountants, lawyers, and police officers. It is worth remembering that the authorities never laid a glove on Al Capone for his Mafia activities, but got him for tax fraud.

That said, the law is a draconian one, and I wonder whether a Victorian judge would have let such an infringement of privacy past him.