Opinion - Let’s claw back criminal loot

Charles Graham
Charles Graham

WE have run two stories in these pages over the last week featuring criminals who have been pursued through the courts for their ill-gotten gains using the Proceeds of Crime Act.

There have been very mixed results although neither could be regarded as a complete success.

But neither too is a reason to give up such prosecutions.

The first concerned a drug dealer called Keith Boardman. The 45-year-old from Hindley Green had previously been jailed for 30 months after admitting conspiracy to supply amphetamine and cannabis.

The total value of drugs seized when he was arrested came to £18,362.47 although Liverpool Crown Court found he had benefited to the tune of £157,992.95.

That he is to have assets totalling £22,580.03 seized may seem a little disappointing but, I think most of you will agree, it is better to claw that back than nothing at all. The last thing you want is a crook to come out of jail and immediately be able to live off the fruits of his criminal labours.

But then we had another case of a Leigh fraudster called Simon Hayes who was estimated to have made a whopping £187,000 from conning vulnerable people in a white goods scam over a 12-year period.

One of his victims, out of whom he fleeced £70,000, was a 67-year-old woman who was the sole carer for her disabled son.

Sickening, and Hayes is currently serving a jail sentence of three years and four months that was handed down in March.

Sadly this lowlife - who said he committed the crimes to fund a gambling habit - has virtually nothing to his name, so in the end the authorities have only been able to confiscate a couple of bangers and a small amount of cash from his bank account.

The princely sum recouped from a £187,000 fraud was £715. The rest, he said, he had blown on horses and in the casino.

It really does make you wonder whether it was worth all the trouble, especially when you consider the costs to the taxpayer in all the research into Hayes’s finances plus the POCA legal proceedings.

But what is the alternative? Not bothering?

I am sure in some of these instances when little is recovered the crooks have managed to conceal their loot very cleverly; sometimes simply by living a life with everything owned in someone else’s name; or sometimes spending every cent they get through fair or criminal means as soon as it lands in their pocket.

I’d like to think that the naming and shaming of these people when they appear once again in the courts for a POCA hearing is another part of the punishment and, who knows, once they are out and start flashing the cash, folk might grass them up and the authorities can show renewed interest!

One thing is for sure: if they don’t pay back what the court orders, they go back to prison and still have to cough up the cash when they are eventually released.

So there is some justice in the world after all.