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PROCEEDS OF CRIME, CONFISCATION AND INNOCENT WIVES

Last week the Court of Appeal considered the impact of Article 1 of the First Protocol to the European Convention of Human Rights on the confiscation order regime under Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (“POCA”) in the case of Sanam v. National Crime Agency [2015] EWCA Civ 1234.

The applicant was the wife of a drug trafficker. She had two properties registered in her name. She had been transferred the first property by her father in law, ostensibly as a wedding gift. In fact the father had been holding it for the husband. There was no dispute that the wife was beneficially entitled. The second property had been bought using, in part, monies derived from the rents collected form the first property. Both properties were held as investments and the wife had never lived in them.

The Court held that the effect of subsections 266(3)(a) and 266(4) POCA was to provide a statutory proprietary estoppel defence. The wife could not avail herself of this because she had not suffered any detriment. The Court when went on to consider whether the confiscation order would violate her Article 1 rights. They held that it would not because the regime was a proportionate response to the problem of crime.

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