The Assets Recovery Agency is entitled to use a legal shortcut to obtain "swift justice" and speed up the seizure of money alleged to be from crime, the High Court ruled.

A man accused of living off immoral earnings, but never convicted, had challenged an application by the agency for summary judgment to strip him of thousands of pounds from the sale of a house.

Lawyers for Robert Woodstock, from Wolverhampton, claimed that the application was "misconceived", and the agency had no power to deprive him of the money without a full trial.

But Mr Justice Hodge, sitting at the High Court in London, ruled the law did allow the agency's director to apply for summary judgment under the 2002 Proceeds of Crime Act if a defendant had no reasonable prospect of success at trial.

The judge said: "In these kinds of cases summary judgment may be used and might be regarded as wholly appropriate."

It was a procedure "for producing justice with greater swiftness".

Granting summary judgment to the agency, the judge said he was satisfied that Mr Woodstock had had plenty of time to explain how he had lawfully come by the money used to buy the house in Grange Road, but failed to do so. Mr Woodstock bought it in March 2001 for £89,950 and sold it in July last year for £160,000. The agency took action against him, arguing that he could never have afforded the house based on his legitimate income.

The judge said a total of £34,000 was paid into his bank account between 1999 and 2004, often at banks in the area where a witness against him worked as a prostitute.

Mr Woodstock, who had previous convictions for assault occasioning actual bodily harm, drugs possession, robbery and theft, was charged with procuring a prostitute and living off immoral earnings. But the charges were dropped.

Rambi de Mello, appearing for Mr Woodstock, had argued that the summary judgment proceedings to deprive him of his remaining assets were wrong in law.

In February this year his bank account was frozen while still containing £35,000 from the profits of the house sale.

Mr de Mello said Mr Woodstock had had problems over legal aid funding and not been given sufficient opportunity to prepare his defence. Rejecting the arguments, the judge said a legal aid certificate had been in force, and Mr Woodstock had an ample opportunity to prepare his defence.