Freezing orders are commonly used by law enforcement agencies to prevent the dissipation of assets – usually money held in bank accounts – that they believe have been obtained by unlawful conduct.
Section 16 Criminal Finance Act 2017 amended Part 5 of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (POCA) and sets out the provisions for applying for Account Freezing Orders. These orders are not always made ‘on notice’ (in other words, you might not know an application has been made to the court to freeze the account). In addition, account freezing orders are relatively easy to obtain. There is no requirement for a criminal investigation to be underway, or reasonable grounds to suspect the individual has benefitted from criminal conduct. Applications can be made to a magistrate’s court. Once obtained, accounts can be frozen for months.
Having frozen accounts, law enforcement agencies can apply to the courts for an order that the assets are forfeited – in other words: taken permanently. The court will make such an order if it is satisfied that the money is recoverable property or is intended by any person for use in unlawful conduct.
An order can be appealed, within 30 days of the forfeiture order being made.
If you become the subject of an account freezing order it is important that you seek legal advice immediately. We have significant experience dealing with account freezing orders.