Written 14th May 2014 by Olliers Solicitors

On the 10th June 2010, the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) published details of ancillary orders imposed to ‘aid the lifetime management of offenders’.

Rightly or wrongly, SOCA takes the view that ‘career criminals regard prison as an interruption’, something that ‘rarely marks the end of their involvement in serious crime’. It has stated that from now on, unless there are specific reasons, it will publish details of all Orders made.

Serious Crime Prevention Order

The highest profile Order is the Serious Crime Prevention Order, (SCPO), which was introduced by the Serious Crime Act 2007. An Order can be made on application by the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Director of Revenue and Customs Prosecutions Office and the Director of the Serious Fraud Office.

For an Order to be made the Court must be satisfied of two things. Firstly, that a person has been convicted of a serious offence. Secondly, that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the Order would protect the public by preventing, restricting or disrupting involvement in serious crime by the person in England and Wales.

A key feature is the fact that there is a real risk that the individual in question is likely to be involved in further criminal behaviour, in other words, they are a ‘career criminal’.

An Order may contain:

  • such prohibitions, restrictions or requirements; and
  • such other terms;
  • as a Court considers appropriate for the purpose of protecting the public by preventing, restricting or disrupting involvement by the persons concerned in serious crime in England and Wales.

Examples of the types of prohibition, restriction or requirement are set out in the Serious Crime Act 2007. However, the Act is also clear that these are only examples and the type of provision that the Court can consider is entirely open, provided they are appropriate for the purpose set out above, i.e. protecting the public by preventing, restricting or disrupting involvement in serious crime in England and Wales.

Restrictions and Notifications

The details of Orders made to date in cases prosecuted by SOCA include the following:

  • Restriction and notification of ownership, possession or control of vehicles
  • Notification of premises, owned, occupied, rented, leased or has right of access to
  • Restriction to one mobile phone handset and one SIM card
  • Non-association with co-defendants
  • Notification of changes to name and identity
  • Restriction on bank accounts
  • Restrictions on loans in excess of £3000
  • Restriction on applying for mortgages
  • Restriction on third party financial accounts
  • Restriction and notification of travel out of the UK
  • Restriction on computer software that can reproduce an image of any official document and restricted access to the internet via one device
  • Notification and access to premises owned, rented, leased or otherwise
  • Notification of prison visitors
  • Restrictions on using the prison telephone system
  • Notification of travel outside the UK

The SCPO is for a maximum of 5 years. All the SCPOs published on the SOCA website have been for the maximum period. A breach of an Order is punishable by a penalty of up to 5 years imprisonment and/or a fine.

Other Orders at the disposal of SOCA, and indeed other prosecuting authorities, include Travel Restriction Orders (TROs) and Financial Reporting Orders (FROs).

A Travel Restriction Order can be imposed on an individual convicted of a drug trafficking offence and sentenced to four years or more in prison. The Order comes in to effect upon release from prison and must be for a minimum of two years. The Orders published on the SOCA website range between 2 and 5 years. The terms of the Order are almost inevitably ‘no overseas travel and to surrender passport to the Court’. A breach of an Order can lead to a penalty of up to 5 years imprisonment and/or a fine.

A Financial Reporting Order can require a convicted criminal to report all financial transactions at regular intervals. They can be for a maximum of 15 years (20 years in the case of life sentences) and those imposed to date all require individuals to report all financial transactions. Again, a breach is punishable by up to 5 years imprisonment and/or a fine.

SOCA talk about ‘New approaches to fighting organised crime’. There is no doubt that just as society has changed dramatically over recent years so have attitudes towards law enforcement. Whether it be in the form of Asset Recovery, the Investigation of serious crime or the imposition of SCPOs, TROs or FROs, they plan to make life extremely difficult for the individuals they regard as career criminals.

Matthew Claughton

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