Asset confiscation no breach of Human Rights

Posted: 30th November 2011

The Supreme Court has ruled that the UK law which makes the burden of proof for confiscation of ‘criminal assets’ the civil burden (‘on the balance of probabilities’) rather then the criminal burden (‘beyond a reasonable doubt’) is not a breach of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The case was brought by two people who had been found to have large quantities of assets which could not be readily explained as resulting from legitimate activities. They were suspected of drug Marinatrafficking, tax evasion and money laundering, although they had been acquitted of criminal charges in Portugal.
The Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) sought a confiscation order of the assets and this was granted. The claimants argued that since they had not been convicted of any offence, there was no proof that the assets had been acquired by criminal conduct.
The Court ruled that the correct burden of proof was the civil burden and, furthermore, that the costs of SOCA’s investigation should be borne by the claimants.