Police forces in the Midlands have been given a £500,000 funding boost thanks to assets seized from criminals, the Home Office has announced today.
The war chest is the Midlands’ share of £32million worth of cash and property taken in the last three months of last year from drug dealers, fraudsters, thieves and other criminals living the life of luxury on the back of other people’s misery.
The cash will now be ploughed back into frontline policing and other crime-fighting schemes.
Under the Proceeds of Crime Act, law enforcers can apply to the courts to strip criminals of the wealth they believe has been earned through crime.
Since the law came into force in 2003, more than £530million has been seized, preventing crooks from profiting from their illegal activities.
An incentive scheme introduced in 2006 allows the police and recovery agencies to retain half of all cash they seize from criminals.
Under the incentive scheme, West Midlands Police has been given £397,268, neighbouring Staffordshire police will get £96,905, West Mercia constabulary £38,442 and £9,172 will be handed to Warwickshire police chiefs.
Elsewhere in the country, the Metropolitan Police Service is being handed £1,888,875, police in Greater Manchester are getting £103,624 and British Transport Police, which patrols Birmingham’s New Street station and train lines running through the region, will get £24,262 as part of the £5.5 million handout.
Home Office Minister Vernon Coaker said: “This scheme is a great benefit for policing. Recovering more than £31million from criminals in the space of three months is a great achievement.”
According to the latest figures, a total of £135.7million was recovered from criminals in the financial year 2007/08 using both criminal and civil forfeiture legislation.
Under criminal forfeiture legislation, law enforcers can notify a judge following the conviction of an individual that they intend to investigate their finances in order to strip them of the trappings of wealth earned through crime. Using civil rules, financial investigators can target those with criminal pasts or those living the high life with no obvious signs of legitimate income for their ill-gotten gains through the High Courts.
Before the Proceeds of Crime Act came into force in 2003, there was little that law enforcers could do to target convicted criminals’ financial empires.
For some criminals, jail sentences were viewed as an occupational hazard that could be served knowing that on their release they would emerge to fortunes earned through crime.
But since 2003, the tide has turned and crooks are now said to fear proceeds of crime legislation more than jail time because it hits them hard.
West Midlands Police’s Economic Crime Unit has been successful at getting hold of criminal fortunes and since last April has secured pay-backs totalling £8.3million.
Among those ordered to pay up was Leon Chapman, 33, who enjoyed a playboy lifestyle, driving a Porsche Cayenne and wearing flashy jewellery including a £36,000 diamond encrusted Rolex.
Last November a judge at Birmingham Crown Court labelled Chapman a lifestyle criminal and said he had to pay up £145,000 or face an extra two years behind bars after the assets, also including a flat in Harborne, was deemed the proceeds of crime.
Chapman is currently behind bars after being sentenced to seven years in May 2006 for the attempted robbery of a cash depot in Derby. A month later he was jailed for a further 12 years for possession of firearms and explosives with intent to endanger life.