Proceeds of crime
"They are up to date on the law, they are agreeable and they are responsive. When there is an issue to be addressed, they do it in a timely way and in expert fashion."
CHAMBERS UK 2016
A restraint order is the criminal law equivalent to a civil litigation asset freezing order. It can have a worldwide effect.
Courts have also been willing to impose additional collateral measures to make them more intrusive, such as compelling the ‘target’ to disclose their financial dealings going back six years and requiring them to transfer cash from an overseas to a UK bank account.
Since 2003 restraint orders can be obtained against a suspect by police or other agencies (including even a private prosecutor) long before sufficient evidence is gathered to justify a charge or prosecution. These orders offer investigators an attractive pre-emptive strike to immobilise the suspect’s everyday business activity, and then allow it to resume only under their careful scrutiny.
Furthermore, whilst such restraint orders are said only to be “protective” in the sense of preserving assets pending a possible post-conviction confiscation order, they can be exploited as a weapon to undermine a suspect’s ability to defend themselves. This can include denying the suspect the ability to spend money on legal advice; and using the information which the order compels the suspect to reveal to enhance the investigation and even undermine the suspect’s right of silence.
Corker Binning has been advising clients who are the subjects of restraint orders, for many years. Our restraint order lawyers are expert in having them either varied to reduce their potency or rescinded altogether because of the investigator’s misconduct. In many other instances we had the effect of the orders severely curtailed.
Despite their sometimes draconian effect, these orders are relatively easy to obtain. All too often the targets of them are too intimidated or bewildered to resist. At Corker Binning our restraint order lawyers are able to provide rapid, fearless advice to a client served with such an order.
As the courts have allowed investigators to expand the categories of persons affected by these restraint orders so we have become adept at advising people whose economic interests may be jeopardised. For example, trustees, companies and the families of the person who is the subject of the order. Experience has shown that this type of third party is usually best off asserting their position early on; remaining a bystander can be the worst option.
Increasingly, UK prosecutors are asked by their equivalent in a foreign state for legal assistance in the form of a restraint order against a specific asset situated in the UK. We have advised clients and their lawyers both here and overseas who fear such a request might be made or after such an “external” order has been granted. There are often specific features about this type of order which have enabled us to have them varied substantially in favour of our client.
Our restraint orders have recently advised on the following matters:
- Successfully applying for the discharge of a restraint order in an oral hearing contested by the CPS. The CPS had failed to demonstrate to the appropriate standard that our client, an FCA approved individual, should be the subject of the order.
- Negotiating the release of UK property held by a trust fund which the authorities alleged was under the control of the defendant, who was not Corker Binning’s client. Corker Binning persuaded the CPS that the defendant did not in fact have control and that the UK property could not therefore be restrained.
- Negotiating on behalf of an individual client that no restraint order would be applied for, either pre or post charge, in return for an undertaking that a sum of money equal to the alleged proceeds of crime was preserved for future confiscation.