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A matter of timing

Claimant challenged a court order for the forfeiture of cash under the Proceeds of Crime Act on the grounds that earlier seizure was unlawful.

Desmond Campbell v Bromley Magistrates’ Court and the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis

Court of Appeal (Sir James Munby and McFarlane LJ)

11 July 2017

Executive summary

The claimant challenged a court order for the forfeiture of a quantity of cash under the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) on the grounds that the earlier seizure and detention of the cash were unlawful. The Court of Appeal ruled that this was irrelevant: the only question was whether the conditions for forfeiture under section 298 POCA were satisfied

Background

On 10 January 2014 a constable executed a search warrant at the claimant’s house, seized a quantity of cash and arrested him on suspicion of money laundering. On 17 February the police re-seized the cash under section 294 POCA and on 19 February and 14 March 2014 applied successfully to keep the cash and then applied for a forfeiture order.

The claimant wanted to challenge the legality of the re-seizure on 17 February and court order made on 19 February. The district judge declined and ordered the forfeiture of £7,770 on 27 March 2015.

The claimant sought to judicially review that decision. He asserted that his challenge to the lawfulness of either the original seizure or the subsequent detention of cash had to be determined before the forfeiture proceedings.

Decision

The Court of Appeal applied the decision of Keith J in Secretary of State for the Home Department v Tuncel and another [2012] EWHC 402 (Admin). There was no reason not to forfeit the cash ‘unless the relevant statutory regime made the forfeiture of the cash dependent on the cash having been lawfully seized and detained in the first place. For reasons I have already given I do not think that the relevant statutory regime did that.’

The only question for the court was whether, as a matter of fact, the conditions set out in section 298(2) POCA were satisfied. The court had to be satisfied that the cash was recoverable and was intended for use in unlawful conduct. The cash also had to be detained once a forfeiture application had been made under section 298(4) POCA until the conclusion of those proceedings. A person opposing the order could raise arguments relevant to the section 298(2) POCA conditions but could not oppose the forfeiture application by challenging the legality of earlier stages in the process. Put simply, challenges had to be advanced at the right stage and not after the event, when different legal tests applied.

Comment

This straightforward judgment confirms that the only test to be applied on forfeiture of cash is the test prescribed in the statute. Failure to mount challenges at the right time cannot be revisited later in proceedings when different tests apply.