What happens to crime assets seized by the police?
This year saw a record amount of stolen goods seized by the police, with figures showing at least £1 billion worth of assets were either seized or frozen. Police have the power to seize anything which they consider to be relevant to a criminal offence and may freeze your financial assets or that of a company if they suspect that they are proceeds of crime.
Once the police have seized the assets
Once the police have obtained assets from criminal investigations or frozen assets which come from the proceeds of crime, they will not be able to deal with them instantly.
Naturally, there is a lot of red tape which must be dealt with as the police investigations need to be thoroughly carried out before any criminal trial can take place. Criminal trials can take time, and often the assets seized form part of the investigations and so they cannot be dealt with immediately. There is also the possibility of appeals which can halt the process further.
However, in a lot of cases where goods are seized or assets frozen nobody is ever arrested, or the true owner of the asset cannot be located, and so the police have significant assets which have been confiscated.
What happens next?
What happens to these items which can often be extremely valuable? Often these goods will be sold at a public auction. Different police auctions are handled by different police departments and they can vary in how they are implemented.
It may seem strange that the police would hold an auction, but if there are seized criminal assets and nobody knows who the owner is, it seems the fairest way to deal with the goods. There are often significant bargains that can be found at a police auction.
What happens to the proceeds?
Once certain goods have been disposed of or sold at auction the police then have to decide what to do with the proceeds. The vast majority of this money goes to the Home Office so that it can continue to improve its service in protecting the public.
The criminal justice system in the area of police jurisdiction that the assets were seized is also likely to receive a large injection of funds to help with the funding of local courts, the police service, prisons, and more commonly the work done by probation officers.
In a recent development, a small proportion of the funds will be placed in a project called ‘community cashback’ in which the funds will be distributed into a public project with people of the community often able to vote on what they would like the money to be spent on.
If the police have temporarily confiscated an asset from you, or you have had something stolen and reported it to the police, then you should not be concerned that the police will sell it. If the police can find the true owner of an asset they will, of course, return it.
However, for a large proportion of criminal assets there is little chance of finding the true owner and so the assets are sold to help the police and the Home Office prevent future crimes. Therefore, in an ironic twist, criminals who steal goods may actually be funding the officers that catch them.
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