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.

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Location: Near London, United Kingdom

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

Friday, August 28, 2009

A Bit Harsh

The Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) allows the detention (usually for 90 days at a time) and eventual forfeiture of cash and property found to be the proceeds of crime. At one time this only happened with drug money, but nowadays it can be the proceeds of any unlawful conduct. When the police search the home of a drug dealer, or a prolific burglar, or whatever, and find a pile of cash in the loft then the chap is going to lose it. Another type of seizure can occur when, say, the owner of a cash business is found to be in possession of cash that has been skimmed off the takings and not gone through the books. Tax evasion is unlawful, hence the cash is liable to be seized. The proceedings are civil in nature, so Legal Aid is not available, and we are frequently faced with confused people whose first language is not English, who struggle to understand the proceedings. As a result these cases can often take some time to deal with, and multi-day hearings are common.
We dealt with a case the other day involving a man from a non-EU country to the East. He had a substantial sum of cash on him, and he claimed credibly that he had earned the money working on construction sites. He had a National Insurance number, and had paid tax and NI on his earnings. But here's the catch: his visa wasn't in order, therefore he had no right to work in the UK. Therefore the cash was unlawfully obtained, and we were obliged to seize it. It seems a bit unfair to take a man's hard-earned wages, especially when he has paid tax on them, but that's the law. Over coffee, we were comparing his plight with some of our regular customers who spend most of the day on their sofas, watching daytime TV or playing video games, while smoking dope. It's a bit ironic that our Easterner's tax went to pay for the sofaholics, isn't it?