Report published 5 July 2016. Government response published 7 November 2016.
Confiscation orders are the main way through which the government carries out its policy to deprive criminals of the proceeds of their crimes. The National Audit Office (NAO) reported on the administration of confiscation orders in December 2013, concluding that the process was not working well enough and did not provide value for money. The Public Accounts Committee subsequently held an inquiry and published a report which made six recommendations for the system’s improvement, which were accepted by the government.
Since the Public Accounts inquiry in 2014, the government’s administration of criminal confiscation orders has seen a greater focus on enforcing the orders. Many of the fundamental weaknesses identified two years ago by the Public Accounts Committee remain, however, and the system of managing confiscation orders has not been transformed.
The NAO's follow-up review has found that the criminal justice bodies involved have made some progress against most of the Committee's recommendations. Despite this, the NAO considers that the only recommendation which has been fully addressed is that the sanctions for non-payment should be strengthened.
The Home Office introduced new legislation which includes longer default prison sentences and powers for judges to impose travel bans for non-payers. It is too early to conclude, however, whether these changes will prove successful.
Since 2014, the criminal justice bodies have improved how they administer confiscation orders, with greater focus on enforcement and better joint working across bodies including the Ministry of Justice and the Home Office. This has led to a £22 million (16%) increase in confiscated income in two years and the highest amount collected to date. The number of orders imposed, however, has fallen by 7% and are made in only a tiny fraction of total crimes.