You probably haven’t heard of “POCA” – but you will when the secret financial police come calling.
There’s a conversation taking place on Twitter this morning that has prompted me to write this piece on POCA : “The Proceeds of Crime Act”.
As with all government double-speak, even the name of the law is a linguistic sleight-of-hand. It has nothing to do with the proceeds of crime or of any crime. The nerve of the people who write these twisted laws is truly breath-taking. I imagine they sit there in a conference room and say, “What can we get past the British public today.”
Mandarin number two replies: “Well, either the public is too stupid or too afraid to complain, so let’s push the boundaries some more.”
POCA is a HUGE subject, so let me try and simplify it.
Strictly speaking it is Civil Law not Criminal Law but even though it is ‘civil’ it’s use is reserved exclusively for the government
Civil Law was chosen because a lower burden of proof is required in court *
It was written to target money not people. Money is not protected by the European Court of Human Rights, so it is exempt from all Human Rights law (clever).
It was written with the intention of being ‘excessive’ – it says so in the Act of Parliament, thus every appeal has failed because the appeal judges say “the law is designed to be excessive so we are required to make it more so”. Thus, after 10 years, it has developed from mildly excessive to way out of control, unbelievable. The phrase used by several eminent barristers is “it functions in a parallel legal universe”.
Because this is a ‘civil’ law (and I use the term loosely) no jury is present in court. A judge decides.
No hard evidence is required to ‘convict’ *. The judge is required to infer and assume – and in many cases just accept whatever the prosecution (the government’s lawyer) makes up.
Once a decision – the judgment - has been made, the ruling magically morphs into criminal law so that (a) the police and everyone else can get involved in pursuing the debt (they are not allowed to pursue civil debts) and (b) a prison sentence can be passed if the person ‘convicted’ does not pay up on time.
Because POCA targets money not people, the government can decide a person has too much money and they want it. Don’t forget no proof is required.
I forgot to mention: under POCA everyone is considered guilty unless they can prove themselves innocent (which they cannot do because the courts do not work on the basis of evidence, only government innuendo).
If a person, who is in possession of money perfectly legally, is targeted and tries to fight, the court will decide they have committed a criminal offence by not paying (see paragraph above). Money can be, and is regularly, taken by the government on a whim. No connection between a sum of money and a crime needs to be established.
* In 2003 the law started out with a ‘lower burden of proof’. Following many appeals, judges have decided that NO proof is required for seizure of money.
* The prosecution (the government) makes allegations, the judge makes suppositions whereas the defendant (who is having his/her money taken) has to provide hard evidence. However, the judge makes the decision on what constitutes ‘evidence’ so he can, and frequently does, ignore it.
If all this happened in a foreign country, you would be shocked. It happens in Britain, and you say nothing.