Prosecutors and regulators are increasing using their extensive powers under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 to restrain the assets of individuals. This shows an increasing desire by the authorities to aggressively pursue those they suspect of financial crime.
Often during the course of a criminal investigation or court proceedings a restraint order is sought through the Courts. This can often be long before any charges are even brought. This can have a devastating effect on individuals and businesses. The purpose of such an order is to preserve any assets for a possible confiscation order if an individual were to be convicted of an offence where they have gained a benefit from criminal conduct.
The restraint orders can be extremely far reaching and prevent you from dealing with any of your assets even those held in trust or overseas. If a restraint order is placed on you then it essentially means that all your assets will be ‘frozen’. This is often why these orders are referred to as ‘freezing orders’.
At Stephensons we acknowledge that due to the far reaching effects of the order that speed is of the essence. We prioritise clients with a difficulty of this nature as we understand the financial havoc this can wreak.
Priority number one
Is the restraint order legal? Has it been lawfully obtained? Can the order be challenged in any way? Can the order be discharged?
We do not accept that a restraint order is a necessity in the investigation of financial crime and we will be tenacious in our challenges of them. Our priority in advising our client’s is as to whether the order can be challenged.
Priority number two
If the restraint order has been properly obtained and we advise it is unlikely to be discharged when first imposed then we look to applying to have the order varied to ensure that your life can continue to run normally. A common variation would involve requesting that you be allowed to continue trading in whatever business you are involved in. n addition to that it is important to ensure allowances are made for you to meet all your bills and ensure your family’s continued financial support.
We take the view at Stephensons that a restraint order, if properly obtained should only go as far as preserving assets for possible confiscation proceedings in the future. This does not include legitimately earned income and should not impact on an innocent man’s ability to continue with his life. As a result we will ensure as far as possible that the order is in place for as short a period as possible and that applications to vary are made as a priority to ensure any allowances are increased to allow ordinary expenditure.