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How asset confiscation prevents rehabilitation
Craig Fletcher explains how Proceeds of Crime legislation designed to tackle Mr Bigs, often makes rehabilitation impossible for ordinary offenders.

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This is a guest post by Craig Fletcher of Manchester Metropolitan University who is currently writing his PhD on the impact of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (POCA) on the defendant and their wider families.

Making it so crime doesn’t pay

As criminals become more sophisticated and ‘organised’ in the way they conduct their business and in an ever-increasing global market law enforcement agencies across the world have felt the need to develop, in tandem, ways in which they are able to track, apprehend and prosecute those who break the law. Consequently, anti-money laundering, post-conviction confiscation and civil forfeiture legislation have been introduced and developed in the UK over the past few decades and are being used increasingly against (some of) those criminals that make financial gain through their crimes.

What is POCA?

POCA is the latest piece of legislation available to law enforcement agencies which provides specific powers aimed at depriving criminals of their ‘ill-gotten gains’. This piece of legislation is a synthesis of various provisions that were previously situated across various laws. It has recently been amended by the Serious Crime Act 2015 with the specific aim of making confiscation legislation more punitive. The ideology that underpins the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 is that no criminal should be able to enjoy a luxurious lifestyle via the proceeds of crime, a principle that most people would consider axiomatic.

POCA policy documents discuss a number of objectives that help ‘legitimize’ confiscation practice. They include: to deny criminals the pleasure of their ill-gotten gains; to disrupt criminal enterprise; to deter future criminality; and to reassure the public that crime does not pay (National Audit Office, 2013: 5). The rhetoric that has surrounded the introduction and the continuing development of confiscation legislation has professed to target the ‘Mr Bigs’; those at the top of the criminal hierarchy.

Who does it target?

Over the years confiscation legislation has come under increasing scrutiny due to its failure to catch those at the top; the majority of confiscation orders are for amounts less than £1,000 which hardly conjures up images of ‘Mr Big’. However, instead of addressing its acute deficiencies, politicians and policy makers alike have chosen to make the legislation more punitive and in so doing extending its reach.

The POCA 2002 is a complex piece of legislation that has been ‘loosely’ drafted allowing for a wide interpretation of the legislation that will naturally favour the prosecution. It also straddles both criminal and civil law allowing for a number of provisions that enable it to bypass due process protections widely considered to be key principles of the justice system. Research suggests that confiscation orders are often miscalculated partly because of the pursuit of gross profit as opposed to net profit, its civil burden of proof, it’s ‘criminal lifestyle’ and ‘hidden asset’ assumptions and the wide interpretations of ‘benefit’ and ‘obtain’.

A financial investigator produces a financial statement which outlines the ‘benefit’ that the defendant has made from their crimes alongside an amount which is considered ‘recoverable’. If the defendant’s offence/s meet the ‘criminal lifestyle’ criteria outlined in the legislation, the court may assume all monies and assets going back six years have derived from crime and are liable for confiscation. The responsibility then lies with the defendant to prove the legitimacy of these assets. In reality, accounting for every penny for the past six years typically from the confines of a prison cell and without access to expert legal and accountancy advice makes this a difficult, if not impossible, task.

Real life impact

‘Who cares?’ one might say. Well, failure to satisfy a confiscation order carries a default prison sentence and the amount outstanding continues to accrue interest at 8% which means that for many defendants the amount outstanding moves further out of reach as they are in prison and unable to earn.

Case studies

“Frank” (aged 58) was sentenced to 8 years for his role in a complex fraud.  A year into his sentence, Frank was ordered by the court to pay a £200,000 confiscation order. A year later he was informed that his confiscation order remained unpaid and that it was accruing interest at a rate of £44 a day which had already resulted in a further £14,000 being added to his confiscation. The judge imposed a default custodial sentence of 33 months for non-payment of his confiscation order which Frank was ordered to serve at the end of his original sentence. The letter also reminded him that serving the default sentence does not wipe out the debt which continues to accrue interest.

Despite being a model prisoner and suffering from ill-health, Frank was denied his application to be moved to an open prison on the basis that his substantial confiscation order made him a ‘flight-risk’.

Frank says he he has no assets available to pay his confiscation order (his house was repossessed while he was on remand) and so sees it as a life-sentence that will be with him until he dies. By the time he is released, Frank’s confiscation order will be tens of thousands of pounds higher and he will have very little chance of getting a job as a man in his mid-60s with a serious conviction.

“Jo” was sentenced to eight years for possession of class A drugs. As a mother of five she struggled with the guilt of leaving her children behind, a situation made much worse when a confiscation order was imposed putting the family home at risk. Her relationship broke up and she lost her home which was another major cause of upset to both her and her children:

Who was the punishment aimed at? Was it me? because I was in prison. The people it really damaged was my children.

She describes how having to deal with all of this from the confines of a prison cell riddled with guilt, shame and anger meant that her head was constantly in a place of POCA and self-loathing, not rehabilitation. She describes how the burden of a confiscation order takes its emotional and psychological toll:

It was a crazy figure, who knows where they found that from.  This is what I’m saying, the way in which they compute that figure it’s a science in itself and you have no real ability from a prison cell to dispute it, yeh? Because I really tried and you’re very disadvantaged in that you haven’t got access to the internet and you can’t look at all your expenditure, you can’t look at your bank statements, you can’t remember things, do you understand what I’m saying? And how they compute it, well I was really disconnected from that process because it simply didn’t make any sense’

On release Jo successfully managed to appeal her confiscation order and get it significantly reduced. However, by that point the damage had been done. She had come out of prison traumatised by her experiences, separated from her partner, no job, and desperate to rebuild her relationships with her children.


Many criminals live ‘spend-as-you-go’ lifestyles and so trying to recover money that simply is not there because it has been spent becomes a futile excise that costs the tax-payer substantially in both legal and prison fees, not to mention the disastrous consequences of extending prison sentences on an already over-populated and under resourced prison system. It is also worth remembering that the POCA defendant has already been sentenced to a punishment for the predicate offence leading accusations of ‘double punishment’ and disproportionality.

Furthermore, in order to avoid the activation of the default prison sentence my research discovered that some prisoners consider reoffending in order to raise the necessary funds creating further victims, negating the proposed deterrence objectives.

As with any prison sentence, families and children are the unseen victims of further periods of imprisonment.

In conclusion, until policy makers acknowledge the real impact of POCA, this piece of legislation will continue to do more harm than good.

The principles and objectives of confiscation are worthy but in its over-zealous desire to achieve them the criminal justice system must find more ethical and ‘effective’ ways of doing so that reduce harm as oppose to creating it.

Craig continues to work on this issue and is happy to be contacted by people who are dealing with their own POCA issues. You can email him on: 

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39 Responses

  1. Dear Craig Fletcher,
    Re: POCA article.

    I have put your article in my ‘Pocket’ to read completely later.
    I am ‘a victim’ of the establishment (and I am sure there are many) and of the ‘draconian’ law of confiscation and 2002 Proceeds of Crime. (POCA)

    My barrister told me ‘they’ will not get rid of it
    “because they are all making too much money”…..
    ………..Unbelievable, in a civilised country? Is this hidden corruption then?
    This was my first shock.
    I have a dodgy council who, out of malice and greed, tried to steal my house and make me homeless.
    My house was not a Proceed of Crime (and they knew it) it was my father’s legacy, the rest of the purchase was a mortgage for £30,000.
    They found NO other assets (in 4 years), because there were none.

    You might find this a bit strange. Well it is not. All it takes is a corrupt solicitor or a lazy one colluding with the council. She later, after one year, had to withdraw from my case under ‘professional Embarrassment’.
    I was very lucky to have had it stalled at the eleventh hour thanks to God.
    I prayed a lot.

    Although it should have been thrown out of court, it was not. The psycopathic solicitor employed by the council was not going to back off and continued with his perjury. They always pay more attention to the establshment (councils).

    I found one honest solicitor (a firm’s senior partner) who put a lot of time into my case and also got a forensic accountant involved and the so-called ‘criminal amount’ made up by the council was cut by two thirds. As it was, I still had to sell my house after all the sacrifies I made to get the mortgage paid off.
    (14 years later and I still have not had a holiday.)
    It was all there and explained, even though they still took money they should not have (false accounting) hidden in tiny writing. The court was obviously taking for court time and fees over the 4 years. Regardless of innocense/guilt.

    This finished in 2016 and had I lost my job, and am still trying to get over it.
    My case took over 4 years! I had 2 mental breakdowns and now have ME/CFS
    I almost commited suicide. I could have ended up in prison.

    Yes this is possible and does happen. Bullying, intimidation threats & Extortion.

    Is it any wonder that there are so many people in prison now ho may not be guilty of POCA, and committing suicide. Who is here to defend them when the the legal aid has funding been cut? This cruel and is bordering on evil.

    1. Dear SL
      Firstly, thank you for sharing your experiences.
      Sadly, I am not shocked by your story. It is consistent with what many others have told me about their POCA experiences. From loss of legitimately acquired assets, confiscation of pensions, confiscation of inheritance, relationship breakdown, and extended prison sentences to the impact that this has for people in terms of reoffending and mental health. I have heard so many stories that detail people’s pain which for many of them their confiscation experience continues as they are unable to satisfy their orders. My research is on-going so if you want to get involved then please get in touch. I am particularly interested in the toll it took on your health and wellbeing. Only by sharing these experiences, the impact of POCA in reality, can we begin to challenge the official discourse which suggests that it recovers ‘ill-gotten’ gains or targets the ‘Mr Bigs’. Thanks once again for commenting,

      1. Dr Fletcher,
        Long time no speak.
        I have only just seen this. Believe it or not, I am just recovering my health after the onslaught where the council, and corrupt solicitor (don’t forget she got slung off my case under legal embarrassment) who should have been struck off for perverting justice, got away with it.
        Too late for me, so much for a justice system fit for purpose.
        Are you still trying to do something about this?
        I am never going to forget this, or get over it. It is a disgrace, especially when there is so much corruption (and sleaze) going on in the establishement with no such thing as ‘Justice’ in this country that wants to ‘Look good on the world stage’.
        ‘Innocent until PROVEN guilty’. That is the biggest lie ever told in this country. Emphasis in ‘Proven’ and not bullied, lied to by corrupt and/or lazy lawyers into agreeing to plead guilty (under duress) or go to prison.
        I never got my day in court. I am sure quite a few Human Rights laws have been broken and the government and CPS seem to accept it.

  2. Dear SL
    Thanks very much for sharing your awful experience. Until Craig got in touch, I didn’t realise that this legislation was being used for so many less serious offenders.
    Best Wishes

  3. It was described to me as designed for serious crime & is actually being abused by the system.

    For example money it was intended from the profits made & assets gained deriving from the sale of drugs.

    They have all the resources they need to throw at it, both money, time, & so called expertise. because they can! The costs to achieve it are disproportionate & genuinely hard earned assets are confiscated, which makes a mockery of the title Preceeds of Crime”. The “criminal” already is at a disadvantage, in prison, difficult to find work & rebuild their life after, also ends up a victim of the systems manipulation of a piece of legislation that it is likely wasnt intended to be used that way.

    This in itself is abuse & criminal.

    1. Hi Anonymous

      Again you raise some very important points. I followed the House of Commons sessions on POCA in 2016 and a number of ‘experts’ were called to provide evidence, some of which acknowledged the gross failures of the system in its current format. However, completely absent from the sessions was the voice of those who are subjected to it a voice that needs to be heard. That’s why this research is so important and its important that we get our voices heard
      Thanks for taking the time to leave a message

  4. Hi Craig,

    Thanks for conducting this important research – it sounds like it sure is needed. I know from working with various prisoners that POCA is very damaging, and often counterproductive in achieving what it says on the tin. The system needs money and so tries to capitalise on those who have capitalised from crime; but then flounders when the figures are unrealisaeable and further sentences are dished out, costing more money?! The system is saturated with pathetic breaches and POCA prisoners instead of the 80,000 ‘dangerous criminals’ the public assume are being held for their protection…

    This double jeopardy and double/quadruple punishments need to stop – it is against human rights surely? The right to be rehabilitated, the right to move on, the right for ones family to remain as innocents, the right to be sorry instead of building esentful feelings towards a system which is not acting as a role model but is instead teaching people to capitalise on misfortune in a relentless fashion, regardless of who it actually hurts – you, me, the public purse, and so on.

    Hopefully your research will continue to educate us on this paradoxical piece of legislation and things will change. Thanks again Craig!

    1. Hi Marie-Claire

      Thank you for your comments

      You raise some fantastically important points that around the philosophy of punishment and proportionality. I think it is irresponsible and criminal that we have a CJS that spends hundreds of millions of pounds of tax payers money each year on services that propose to help offenders reintegrate and live better lives then they have POCA legislation running in parallel that does the opposite. There needs to be some accountability for sure…


  5. Thanks for this blog. Much of this also holds true for the Dutch confiscation regime. See for instance the article Petrus van Duyne, François Kristen and I wrote in P.C. van Duyne, J. Harvey, G.A. Antonopoulos, K. von Lampe, A. Maljevic, A. Markovska (eds.), Corruption, Greed and Crime-money. Sleaze and shady economy in Europe and beyond, Oisterwijk: Wolf Legal Publishers 2014, p. 235-266,

  6. I committed a crime very stupidly 11 years ago, I had to go to the doctors today and being referred to the mental health team as I am at risk to myself. My crime even though no excuse for it was caused through many years of trauma and sexual abuse as a child and wanting to keep hold of the love I finally thought I found, I committed fraud and used the money to keep him happy so he didn’t leave me. I went to prison and met many people like me how had bad childhood experiences. On leaving prison they took what I had to give straightaway and then came after me two years later and now once more they turned up 3 months ago with a restriction order on my partners house (he had no knowledge of my past), I had to be named on the house for a joint mortgage application as he had to use my salary to be able to get a mortgage. I never paid anything into his house as he purchased it outright before he even met me. I had to confess and discuss my darkest secrets and he has since suffered depression like me and he attempted suicide but thankfully failed. My past has caused so much pain to him and my kids will also be effected. Still waiting for the next step for CPS, over ten years had passed I’ve started a new life and managed to live supressing my past until now. Once more I am a criminal again all over when I was supposed to be allowed to rehabilitate.

    1. Hi Sarah
      I was saddened to hear your story. Thanks for being brave enough to share it. I do hope you get some help and support in being able to resolve this.
      Very Best Wishes

    2. Hi Sarah,
      Firstly, thank you for sharing your personal experiences. I know it can be difficult to speak out about POCA but it is important that the voices of those who are suffering as a direct result of POCA share their experiences because I can assure you that most people do not have any idea of the extent of the state’s confiscation powers or the manner in which they go about their business. Your account correlates with my research findings: that this form of indefinite punishment completely undermines the state’s pretence that they aim to help offenders rehabilitate. I have interviewed scores of people that say exactly the same thing – that because of the on-going oppression of their confiscation order and the difficulties this causes in terms of rehabilitation and developing relationships it is affecting their mental well-being, further marginalising them which in turn further undermines their rehabilitative efforts. Please do not hesitate to get in touch if you want to discuss further –
      Best Wishes
      Craig Fletcher

  7. I’m so glad I had found this. I was arrested in 2008 for a conspiracy to convert criminal property at the time I only just turn 19. I was bailed for a few years but in this time had to keep answering to bail. In 2011 I had pleaded guilty to the offence and was sent to prison for 3 years (I got early release with tag). They then came after me for POCA whilst I was serving my sentence. I had never been in trouble like this before and didn’t have a clue what POCA was. To be told that if I don’t get a confiscation order for £1 or give them the money they are asking for I will go back to prison. My heart stopped for a minute and couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Surely this was not true? It was a nightmare I wanted to wake up from. After getting dragged back and forth from prison to attend my POCA hearing I ended up getting a £88k hidden asset confiscation order. I didn’t understand how for the first offence they would say you spent vast amounts of money then in your POCA hearing they say you’ve hidden it. It’s definitely a contradiction. I was advised that if I don’t pay the £88k within so many months I would go back to prison for 20 months (do half). Well I ended up going back to prison as I never had this money they were asking for. I had only come out of my first sentence for 6 months then back I go again. I have never had this money and at the age I committed the crime I lived for the moment. I went on holidays, bought cars, shopped at some of the luxury stores like Gucci and Louis Vuitton. I partied with my friends and took things I shouldn’t be taking but it was the thing to do when your with your friends. My case was a high profile one and was published on the news papers which was a shock!

    I was let down by my solicitors that dealt with the case as I wasn’t advised to provide proof of my spend which I had. I had receipts, car finance agreements etc. Then I had passed my case to a apparently a POCA specialist to look at an appeal whilst I was serving my POCA sentence. He had all my files for over 2 years and got my hopes up. All he wanted was for me to keep signing those legal aid forms. I have now passed it onto someone else and due to see a new council. I can’t afford it and it’s going to cost me £600 to see a new council. Luckily enough for me I have a great family that are helping me out. Why should I be penalised for the rest of my life?

    I’m turning 31 this year and I’m still in this nightmare I can’t wake up from. There’s no excuse for what I did and yes I should be punished for what I did. I was young and naive. I didn’t kill anyone yet it feels that way. At least with someone that had committed murder they would get out and move on with their lives.

    I had so much going for me, I was working towards going to university and I made the biggest mistake ever. I’m currently suffering from depression and anxiety. I would not wish what I’m going through on my worst enemy. If I could turn back the time then I would. I just want to be the old me again – full of life. I feel like there’s no light through the tunnel. I feel like the only way out of this would be to win the lottery, appeal the confiscation or end my life. Writing this has shed a tear but after so many counselling sessions I’ve managed to speak about it.

    My confiscation is accruing interest £19 per day and I’m currently paying £20 a month that does not even touch the sides. Going to pay for this every month at the pay point is a constant reminder of what I did and knowing I can’t get a mortgage or live a normal live again unless the law changes

    I am really interested in your research Craig and if my story can make a change for all the confiscation order suffers out there then I would love to be part of it.

    Thanks and look foward to your response

    1. Firstly, thank you for taking the time to share your POCA experiences – it is an extremely brave thing to do in my opinion. Sadly, your story accords with my research findings in many, many ways.

      1) The time the POCA process takes to finalise in court is punishing in itself for both the defendant and their wider families who are forced to endure both the hardships induced by POCA but also forced to watch as their loved one falls to pieces in their desperate attempt to defend against a piece of legislation that has been loosely drafted to favour the prosecution and by-pass typical due process safeguards.

      2) It is hard to say which is more damaging – having your prison sentence extended whilst still serving the original prison sentence (as this has a detrimental impact on sentence progression, de-categorisation, ROTL eligibility etc) because of POCA or having finished the original sentence and set about reintegrating back into society to then be reincarcerated despite not committing any further offence is something that most people who find themselves in such a position struggle to come to terms with. The findings of my research reveal that the on-going pursuit of confiscation goals inhibits rehabilitative efforts at best and forces people back into crime at worst – a societal self-harm induced by the state.

      3) Hidden asset orders are impossible to defend against – how do you prove that something is not hidden if it in fact isn’t hidden but spent? Again your experiences concurs with my research findings most offenders ‘spend as they go’ meaning that despite making some illegitimate money it is not recoverable by the time of arrest. The courts in pursuing moneys that no longer exist in effect create a life sentence because of the accruing interest on the unpaid amount. As you correctly point out the court is happy to portray the ‘champagne lifestyle’ of a defendant when hearing the court case for the predicate offence yet when it comes to POCA proceedings they are not willing to accept that the money no longer exists allowing them to list it under ‘hidden assets’.

      4) My research also revealed that the level of legal advise provided for POCA cases is way beyond what would be required in order to provide a robust defence. Many legal firms falsely parade themselves as specialising in POCA making promises to clients that they fail to live up to in reality. As a consequence many of my research participants shared how their legal teams would advise them to concentrate on defending the ‘realizable’ figure as the ‘benefit’ figure will just lay on file and doesn’t have consequences in terms of default prison sentences. Although there may be some truth in this the reality is that the ‘benefit’ figure remains in place indefinitely and should you come into any money in the future, regardless of whether it is legitimately acquired (through legitimate work, partner’s legitimate earnings, inheritance etc), then the court is entitled by law to seek to recover the benefit amount at any point in the future. The consequence of knowing this for many of my research participants was that they are forced to live a deceitful life going forward making sure that assets and monies, despite being legitimately acquired, are not traceable. All of which prevents full reintegration back into society, places further and unnecessary strain on relationships and undermines rehabilitation.

      5) The accruing interest again was a theme of concern for my research participants. In many cases the accruing interest meant that their confiscation orders increased in value and subsequently placed paying it off less likely as opposed to more likely as politicians seem to think. The research participants described how the payments they were able to afford on release from prison were typically less than the accruing interest because they were working in low paid employment. In effect the accruing interest makes the POCA sentence a life sentence as you say. More concerning is the fact that for many this interest begins to accrue whilst defendants are in prison and, therefore, unable to earn – so people are leaving prison with ridiculous confiscation orders that they are unable to pay, well paid legitimate opportunities are few and far between and the on-going financial scrutiny imposed by the POCA process places strain on relationships at a time when these relationships need to be nurtured – so why are we not surprised to find out that people ‘chose/forced’ to go back to crime. We also have to remember that more often than not these confiscation orders have been wrongly calculated or grossly inflated in the first place.

      6) Sadly, my research also accords with your experience of POCA induced depression, anxiety and suicidal ideation so much so that I have written a whole chapter just on the psychological impact of POCA. The potential of such outcomes fail to transpire in POCA policy discourse or political rhetoric but this was one of the strongest themes within my research. We know that financial debt is linked to depression, self harm and suicide in general. In the context of POCA this experience is magnified because there is no way out because of the accruing interest – the POCA debt remains indefinite regardless of whether you become a contributing member of society, with the threat of reincarceration lingering in the background. The end result is a sense of helplessness with no perceived way out where some of my research participants spoke about the only way out being suicide. What has gone so wrong with our society and our criminal justice system in particular that this is considered a regrettable but potential outcome of recovering the ‘proceeds of crime’. This doesn’t feel like reparation to me but retributive violence on a scale not seen since corporal punishment was abolished.

      Apologies for the long reply but I felt that your honest account of your experience of POCA deserved a considered response. The only way we will begin to change what is taking place here is by people like you sharing your experiences, experiences that contradict the official accounts of POCA, and begin to challenge this state sponsored violence. Please do not suffer in silence and feel free to private email me if you need to speak about anything.

      Best Wishes

      Craig Fletcher

      1. S.L. Thanks very much for your comment on such a difficult and stressful situation. Craig has been working very hard to raise awareness of POCA which, as you know better than most, is in urgent need of change.

      2. Thanks for such a helpful reply Craig. It has just struck me that would probably be keen to host an article by you on POCA. let me know if you need an introduction. Best wishes Russell

      3. hi iv been reading some of these post and i carnt believe how many suffer depression,stress,suicidal thoughts this is how i feel
        i was sentence to 3 and half years in prison for mortgage fraud whilst in prison i received a poca which ask me to pay a amount which i did i thought this was all over and i could continue will my life i managed to get a bit of work and slowly build my life again 4 and half years later after i payed the first amount to my shock i was told i have to pay more because i have a house with equity in and i owe a outstanding monies i have NOT committed any crime whilst been out but now after all this time im going to have to sell my house to pay the poca this will break me as it will leave me homeless and in a vunerable state i understand being punished but how can i reabilitate and move forward if my pass is preventing this i think the law will change untill then i will have to abided by the law

        1. Hi Anonymous,

          Firstly, thank you for taking the time to share your experiences with us. Sadly, your experience of losing the family home is consistent with many others who took part in this research and this was said to have a devastating impact, especially for those who have children as it often resulted in them being relocated and reschooled away from family support networks and peers. It would appear that you may have satisfied the ‘available’ figure contained within your confiscation order but the benefit figure remained outstanding, which allows them to recover after-acquired assets (even if they are legitimately acquired) under section 22 powers.

          You are quite right to point out that the ongoing (and often indefinite) punishment that the confiscation system exerts is both damaging and greatly impedes efforts to rehabilitate upon release from prison. It’s important that voices and experiences such as yours are heard because the decision makers, and law & policy makers have absolutely no idea or the devastation that POCA leaves in its path, devastation that is more likely to increase the risk of reoffending than it is to meet its policy objective of reducing financially motivated crime. That’s why this research is so important.

          If you want to discuss your confiscation order further then please feel free to send me an email directly at

          In the meantime, try to remain strong

          Best Wishes


  8. Hello me and my daughter has a confiscation order mine is for 9000 and my daughter’s is 13000 we are both disabled and on benefits we have a house with a mortgage which we both pay out of are benefits we can’t sale the house or we will be homeless we can’t get a loan or’re mortgage because we don’t get enough money in we are both on suicide watch because we can’t take anymore all we ask is to pay monthly instalments is there any help you can give us please thank you

  9. Hi my partner has a poca rhey say he had hidden assets even though he went bankrupt had his car repossessed couldn’t afford day to day bills all before he was arrested for a crine he didnt even commit. He has has been in 2 yrs already and another 1 to go and now his default is 3yrs if he doesn’t pay he does not have any money nor has he .His children have not seen him for months because he is too far away and we are all suffering as is he. The solicitor is not really interested even though my partner has been sending her proof of everything and he is on the verge of a breakdown this is like a 2nd trial it’s never ending he was in an open prison for 3 months and we had weekly visits now he has moved to a b prison far away again and we do not now what the hell is going on i just don’t understand why they don’t allow people to move on and that they don’t seem to care how many other people connected to the prisoners are also doing the prison sentence with them. The impact it has on children surely increases the chances of them either having mental/emotional issues or go on to commit crime because of the affects it had on them in their childhood.

    1. Hi Donna

      I tried emailing you directly but I must have gone through to your junk box. Feel free to email directly if you want on :

      This is the email I sent to you:

      I am replying to your comment that you left in response to my POCA article on Russell Webster’s website – thank you for taking the time to comment. The article I wrote discussed just one theme from my research which looked into the impact of POCA on the offender and their families.

      Sadly, everything you discussed is consistent with other peoples experiences and people are getting in touch on a daily basis telling me so. Being moved prisons because of POCA, prison sentences being extended, the lack of legal advice, the impact on everybody but especially the children, depression etc. The damage may be irreparable which is unjust because I thought the prison system was supposed to be about giving people the opportunity to turn their lives around. The part of the research which I particularly struggle to deal with is the impact on the children because they are innocent.

      if you need any advice – although I am not a legal expert – I will try my best to share my experiences of POCA. Just let me know and I will give you a call

      Best wishes

      Craig Fletcher

  10. Hi,
    Myself and my partner are currently going through a confiscation order based on the judge saying we have hidden assets. I have been given an order of £97500 and my partner £95400 and he is currently serving a sentence of 3 years and 7 months. I am finishing off my community service alongside having a full time job and 3 children. Now we committed an offence money laundering this was because my husband was out of work for a considerable number of years. This money was just went through our accounts and was paid in from
    different countries. I put my hand up and accept my wrong doing. But punish me sensibly and not give me an amount that I cannot even think about to pay. We do not own any properties or cars we used most of the money given to us from laundering to pay rent and live our daily lives as I was pregnant most of that time. Now the default sentence is 18 months. What’s going to happen to my children? They’ve already lost their dad not been home as he is still in prison. Where do I go to appeal this, who do I write to? If they feel there are hidden assets why don’t they go find it and not put the burden on us? I cannot eat, sleep and really struggling not to have a mental breakdown because of my kids. I need help as I cannot afford this or go to prison for this. They did not even give an option of paying monthly atleast I could carry on working and paying it on a monthly basis alongside all my other debts. HELP………

    1. Hi Mary,

      So sorry to hear about your POCA experience. As you quite rightly point out, those that break the law should be held accountable but what is taking place under the confiscation system goes way beyond that. I have come across similar cases when doing my research and Its the uncertainty of not knowing what lies ahead that pushes people to the edge, and sometimes over!

      Hidden assets have also been a common feature within my research that are resulting in people having to serve default sentences and then have interest accrue on the unpaid amount. It has also shown that they are near on impossible to defend against. The most disturbing finding of my research was the impact upon the children, despite their absolute innocence.

      In terms of appeal, it is very vague as to where or if you can appeal against a confiscation order. My understanding is that in order to have the best chance of appeal then you have to evidence an abuse of process rather than appealing on the grounds of hardship but I would advise you to seek legal advice in these regards.

      In terms of paying monthly as part of a payment plan or as part of an attachment of earnings order, this is certainly common practice after the default sentence has been imposed. Im sure a judge would have to take into consideration the children’s human rights when considering activating the default sentence, especially as you have already served your punishment for the predicate offence, and on that basis may well consider offering a payment plan rather than send both parents to prison and then the kids potentially have to go into care. Again, I must reiterate that I am not a solicitor and so I am not qualified to offer you legal advice, I am simply sharing my knowledge based on other cases that I have come across during my research.

      That aside, it pains me to read your story and if there is anything that I can do to support you then please do not hesitate to get in touch directly. My email address is: One of the main objectives of my research is to provide a platform for those subjected to confiscation proceedings to have their voices heard because nobody has any idea of the extent of the injustice that is taking place under POCA. I’d challenge any good human being to see the value in a system of punishment that causes so much unnecessary pain and hardship.

      Best wishes


  11. I am 47 years of age and I have a confiscation owning £193,504.92 (with interest). It started off at 130,000 due to my incarceration the interest was at least 25 per day. I have been punished for a crime serving 8 years with additional 2 years added as default sentence which I have served. This is somewhat punishing me still for a unrealistic amount that I cannot afford. I work as a junior lab staff and earn before tax £22,000. I live at home in my parents house, I have 5 sons and 1 daughter, I still pay off my student load. I am still on probation. The amount that was inforced on me is some what very unrealistic. I won’t ever in my life time afford to ever pay this amount off. I am currently paying at least £250 a month because the assets recovery sent a letter to my employer stating they have to deduct 17% out of my pay a month. Now my boss knows my business which he shouldn’t of have to, and if he wasn’t a nice person I believe he would of got rid of my because of this. I come to the point that there is no point of me working now because I am throwing money in to a bottom less pit. Every job I will get the assets recovery will be writing to them and threatening them to inforce payment. I have been through the whole rehabilitation and I do not believe that giving someone this debt as an extra form of punishment. I pay my taxes 17.5% for my wages a month already sot now another 17% is taken out. If I get another Job with higher pay the asset recovery will take out more of a percentage. I was convicted as conspiracy with others at least 17 or more and only 4 people got confiscation and treated us 4 as the same stating we had hidden assets. They don’t even check what your personal finances are and what you can afford to pay which is unrealistic and unfair. I don’t ever think this is about money any more, I believe that it is forced on some people to never rehabilitate or a heavy burden on there life forever. It seems that freedom is better than working your life off paying off bills when I can’t even afford a house. So being not working will seem more beneficial for me then slaving away to a bottom less pit. Courts should revaluate the evidence and circumstances around the person at least every couple of years and stick to realistic recoverable amount if they want people to pay.

    1. Hi Craig,

      Thank you for sharing your unfortunate experiences which correlate completely with my research findings. This punishment is inescapable, it is a lifetime punishment because of the interest that accrues upon the confiscation debt. As you point out, forcing people to pay a further 17% tax by way of attachment of earnings has the effect of dis-incentivising legitimate employment. Your combined tax rate will be 20% basic tax rate plus 17% ‘confiscation tax’. So each month your are paying a total of 37% tax, just 3% lower than the higher rate of tax for those that earn over £50,000 salary. To remove £250 from your wages every month is wrong because all that does is punish your children as you have less disposable income, even more wrong in the knowledge that you have served your punishment for the predicate offence and then served an additional 2 years default sentence. Any payments that you are ordered to pay should be means-tested in a way that accounts for your financial obligations to you children. I wish I could give you some good news Craig and tell you that it wont be forever – but the reality is, as one my research participants stated, “unless I win the lottery, then I’m going have this debt hanging over my head till I die”. Lots of people I researched said that they could see how this punishment could push people back into crime as they were left with little other choice.

      The important thing is Craig, because people like yourself are bravely coming out and speaking about your experiences, awareness of the harmful effects of this punishment are starting to increase and that’s how we will bring about the necessary changes – by raising awareness of the harmful realities of this punishment.

      Thanks once again for getting in touch and if I can help you with anything please feel free to email directly on


  12. Hi in 2012 police found 23 cannabis plants in my home. In 2013 I was convinced for production controlled drug class B cannabis and court order confiscation in value of 10350£. In 2019 avalaiable amount was increased originally from 645£ to 10350£ only because I gain house on mortgage. I have got now 10350£ confiscation order for benefit other than drug trafficking just for cultivation cannabis plants. Now court want to force my to sell family home to pay for obtained plants. They don’t care that I didn’t keep plants they where confiscated by police but I have to still pay estimated value of those plants. It’s double confiscation of benefit in particular criminal conduct. I had no criminal lifestyle. How is it even possible? It devastating live of my and my family. I have got two children and third underway. But one error made in the past allow court to take legal property impact at most small children 1.5 and 5 years old and third underway. One one had same experience please share with my any ideas how am I do now. Is it possible to pay it in instalments? I mast protect my family to be homeless. It’s just nightmare. Thanks

    1. Hi Wojciech,
      Sorry to hear about your POCA predicament. I interviewed a couple of people for my research who had a similar experience as yourself. They had been done for the cultivation of cannabis but despite the police catching them and destroying the crop before it had fully grown and been sold, they were issued with a confiscation order for the expected value of the crop.

      My research concluded that, despite the good intentions of confiscation policy, the lived reality is devastating as it creates so much uncertainty especially if the family home is at risk. My research also revealed that the confiscation agency can (and often does) confiscate after-acquired legitimate assets under section 22 of POCA. I have interviewed a number of people who have been able to agree a payment plan, usually through an attachment of earnings order, and they make payments each month directly from their wages. It seems both senseless and heartless to confiscate the family home as this creates a whole different set of problems and punishes your children. I hope you are able to agree payment terms with the court and if there is anything else I can help you with then please do not hesitate to get in touch (email directly – Good luck

  13. Wow, I’m in shock! I had no clue how cancerous, evil and damaging this POCA is, or how it is destroying so so many lives.
    I’m not going to bore people with the details of my case, but lets just say that i have done my time for the crime i committed(benefit fraud), and rightly so, I was made to do an extra 2 years in jail in default for not paying the Confiscation Order( hidden assets which I NEVER HAD in the first place), and now, 3 years after serving the default sentence the regional office is looking to apply for an attachment of earnings Order.
    To say that i am angry as hell is the understatement of the century.
    Mr Craig Fletcher, can i just say, THANK YOU…..! Thank you for your research, thank you for opening up my eyes to the fact that i am not the only one who is going through this unjust hell that is the POCA law
    I dont care if i have to leave my job, but i will refuse to pay money that i never had, and money that i am legitimately earning now.
    If you would like more details about my case, or help in abolishing this horrid draconian law, I will not hesitate.
    Thanks Again, Mr Fletcher

  14. Just to reiterate the point you made on the 13th March, 2018, point no 3, about how hidden asset orders are IMPOSSIBLE to defend against, which was the point that i tried and failed to make in court-how do you prove that something is not hidden if it infact isn’t hidden but spent.
    I also want to TOTALLY agree with your last sentence in point 5, “More often than not these confiscation orders have been wrongly calculated, or grossly inflated in the first place by the financial investigators for the prosecution. Just because they can, or that the burden of proof is on the accused does not make it right for them to do so!

  15. Hi Craig,

    I left a comment you can all see explaining my situation on the 1st July 2019. This confiscation order started in 2013 and it is now 2021 nearly 10 years. I have also served the default sentence of 2 years. I am in the same situation since then and still paying off roughly £250 a month through an Attachment Of Earnings order (AOE). I have lodge numerous applications for a hearing at the Magistrates Court and lodge an application for reconsideration, but refused to suspend the AOE order. One of the reasons was because they believe I have not paid a lot which I payed £6000 in 3 years to a confiscation of roughly £193,504 (interest incurring). Obviously I can’t afford it if they have only received that amount.

    We have to all come together and fight this draconian confiscation order because we have already served prison/probation punishment for the offence and now they manufacture another judgment from the same offence that has a life time confiscation and could result with another sentence (default sentence).

    There are not another people coming forward and not a lot of awareness I feel that’s why a lot of people and organisations can’t help. I have also spent days looking online for organisations, people, information, etc. which is very little.

    Could you advise us Craig what we can do pro-actively?

    If you need any support Craig please let me know.

    Warm regards,


    1. Hi C, I sent you an email but it must have gone into your junk Email box? This was the email I sent you:

      Hi C,

      Apologies for the delay in replying Nicky. This is the email best to get me on going forward.

      Thanks for the email – It’s frustrating to hear your experiences of POCA and sadly it is consistent with what my research revealed. I have attached a link to my PhD research so that you can check out the findings if you have the time – Craig Fletcher PhD – Final.pdf (

      Myself and a colleague are looking to set up a campaigning organisation to raise public awareness of this draconian law and begin to challenge confiscation policy. When I have more details I will let you know so that you can get involved – the only way we will begin to change this is if we collectively shout from the rooftops about what is really going on. I have been presenting evidence to the law commission for the past 12 months based upon my research as they are currently reviewing confiscation law at the moment – However, if I’m being honest I’m not too optimistic that things will improve any time soon.

      Best wishes

      Dr Craig Fletcher

  16. Hi Craig

    As other users have said well done for giving a space for this issue to be discussed. Something must be done. People are being given what are effectively financial life sentences, how can that be just in this day and age?

    My partner had a large confiscation order, I won’t go into the details and amounts as it may identify the case and don’t want to comment publicly.

    However, in his case the available amount was not properly identified and put forward by his legal defence. This resulted in him being given a court order to pay a sum that was around several times the actual available amount. The sum was based on a number of properties but as no consideration was given to outstanding mortgages.

    All proprieties were then sold, by a court appointed receiver and a minimal amount therefore was paid off the original order leaving a sum in the millions outstanding.

    We tried to get the order adjusted under section 23, but the system doesn’t allow for it in reality, when a proper available amount hasn’t been given (for whatever reason). Even though the court can see on paper what they themselves have realised, they refuse to amend it.

    We had to live with the threat of a several year or more prison sentence hanging over us, The stress from that alone was unrelenting and indescribable.

    He was eventually given a 5 year sentence in the which he has served some years ago.. He is now stuck with a order in the millions. Cannot pay it back, no way of ever realistically paying it back in his lifetime.

    If it weren’t for family support this would of destroyed his life. He has been depressed, attempted suicide. It’s been 15 years dealing with his case and even though it feels like it’s behind us, it actually isn’t. It is always going to be hanging over forever.

    It’s the opposite of rehabilitation. And as yourself and others have said it must force some people back into the same pattern again.

    I guess the thing is that some public want to see that people are being punished, so the question is, is there any public appetite to help these cases, unfortunately probably not right now. Or perhaps yes and we have all just been hiding away this whole time assuming nothing can be done.

    I wonder, on a cost analysis alone, how many of the 80,000 serving sentences were given orders for amounts they possibly never had in the first place. And therefore an utter waste of public money at roughly £40k per year per prisoner, let alone unseen costs associated with these situations.

    The damage this does to the families is immense, as well as the offender themselves. Children growing up without a parent, that parent then possibly being forced into crime again due to the bad system. That same parent possibly then ending up in prison again for the same offence again and again. Where does it all end ?!

    We would be happy to discuss the case in more detail privately and assist with our time for anything that may help.

    Thank you

    1. Hi Clare,

      Apologies for the delay in replying. Once again an absolute tragedy. You are clearly clued up on the reality of how POCA plays out. If you want to drop me an email at we could perhaps pick this discussion up. I’m in the middle of planning a conference on the lived reality of POCA for March so I can let you know the details of that

      Best Wishes


  17. HI Everyone,

    My new email address is Please feel free to drop me an email directly to discuss any POCA related issues. Apologies if I have missed anybody’s comments above.

    I am currently arranging a conference on the lived reality of POCA here at Manchester Metropolitan University on the 23rd March if anybody is interested in attending. The aim of this conference is to share my research findings and enlighten the audience about how POCA is ruining peoples lives, fails to meet its objectives, and is a disproportionate and additional form of punishment. There will be 4 people on the expert panel who have lived experience of POCA and will share there experiences with the audience.

    Best Wishes

    Craig Fletcher

  18. Hi Everyone,

    As discussed in my earlier email, I am running an event to discuss the lived reality of the POCA punishment. This is the link to book tickets (which are of course free) through eventbrite. I am trying to get as mnay people in the audience who have been affected by POCA so that we can get the message out there that this punishment does far more harm than good:

    If you have any questions please drop me an email on:

    Best Wishes

    Craig Fletcher

  19. Hi Craig

    I am currently having to deal with a confiscation order which was given to my mother in September 2008.
    She got released from prison and because she couldn’t pay in the time given, she was given default sentence and sent back to prison.
    When released my mum tried her hardest to get the money but due to a restraining order on her house, lenders/ banks refused her applications.
    With the constant threat of enforcement & receivers been brought in, the only way my mum could see an end of the matter was to put her house up for sale.
    My mum then passed away in May 2013 and I didn’t hear anything from the cps until 6yrs and 1week after the death of my mother.
    In june 2019 a woman from the regional asset recovery team turned up at my mothers house asking when we can pay the outstanding amount owed plus Interest which has doubled the amount.
    So its on my shoulders now, I’ve done everything the solicitor has told me to do, from probate to change of name with land registry which im in the process of getting through and when the land registry is complete, solicitor has told me i will then need to remortgage the house to pay what’s owed.
    My mum bought her house in 1997 with money she was awarded by a judge as compensation for the death of her husband in a car accident, she paid for her house in full and so never had a mortgage.
    Dealing with this, while grieving, while been constantly threatened with enforcement along with the conflicting issue that our family home is mine and my sister’s inheritance.
    Me and my sisters were very ,very close and since 2019 we have constantly argued over this even fell out over it.
    Best bit of it all is the cps waited 6yrs 1,week, just long enough to reach the time limit of 6yrs, knowing it would be too late to take back to court.
    Now i don’t trust anyone, especially the cps & legal system, Im even questioning if my solicitor is advising me correctly or helping me to the best of his ability.
    There’s a lot more to it all, I’ve just outlined the main part as I’d be here all night from start to finish.
    Im glad i found your page

  20. Hi Daniella
    So sorry to hear your traumatic story. I have forwarded your comment to Craig who, I am sure, will be in touch.
    All the best

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