Pressure grows for return of cash from criminals

COUNCILLORS in West Yorkshire are to discuss putting further pressure on the Government to change the way money and assets confiscated from criminals are distributed.

Kirklees Council will discuss a motion this week, passed earlier this year, which called for all monies taken from criminals to be re-invested locally.

At present, nearly half of the millions seized each year is retained by the Government.

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West Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner Mark Burns-Williamson launched a petition earlier this year calling for a change to the legislation to allow local police, courts and prosecutors to keep more of the money seized.

The Kirklees motion will be discussed by full council at a meeting tomorrow.

The motion called upon the Government to:

Abandon retention of any proportion of funding from the Proceeds of Crime Act.

Encourage re-investment of the total funds into projects deemed necessary by the police and their partners, to the betterment of local communities.

A response to the motion from the Home Office has been received by Kirklees Council.

The letter, dated October 30, explains that, once assets are recovered, the first priority is paying compensation orders to victims, which was £25m in 2012/13.

The next priority is paying companies for preparing Proceeds of Crime cases for court.

The amount returned to police varies. On confiscation orders, the police get 18.75 per cent of the assets where they are the investigating agency.

For cash forfeitures, where no prosecution or enforcement is involved, the police receive 50 per cent.

The 50 per cent which goes to the Home Office is used to fund frontline police work, including the regional organised crime units, the letter explains.

The letter’s contents were dismissed yesterday as “Home Office bumpf” by Kirklees Council leader Mehboob Khan. He said pressure would be maintained on the Government for a change in the current rules in favour of local projects.

The next step in the campaign, he suggested, would be for Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper to raise the issue in the House of Commons.

“This issue has certainly not gone away just because the Home Office has ignored the view of one council. We were not expecting a U-turn on the basis of our motion. The Home Office letter is trying to bury it but there is a lot of support for this campaign.”

Earlier this month Mark Burns-Williamson called upon Policing Minister Damien Green to allow police forces to keep more money generated under the legislation. Mr Burns-Williamson said the Minister had agreed to consider the proposal.

Last night Colne Valley Conservative MP Jason McCartney, who asked a series of parliamentary questions on the subject last year, said he was glad that the Mr Burns-Williamson was supporting him on the subject.

A Home Office spokesman said: “When we redistribute money seized under the Proceeds of Crime Act, victims’ claims for compensation come first. Half of the remaining amount is then used by the Home Office to fund front-line crime fighting activity. This includes the central police budget and the funding of regional serious and organised crime units. The remaining 50 per cent is returned directly to the frontline agencies involved such as individual police forces.”