Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) has prepared a trust statement providing an account of the collection of revenues which are due to be paid to HM Treasury. The statement includes the value of fines and confiscation orders imposed by the judiciary; fixed penalties imposed by the police; the value of collections; the balances paid over to third parties including victims of crime, the Home Office and HM Treasury; and the balance of outstanding impositions.
We welcome the Comptroller and Auditor-General’s (C&AG) report on the trust statement which recognises the improvements HMCTS has made in its accounts. The statement shows in 2011-12 HMCTS collected more than £484 million from offenders. A record £22.3 million in compensation has been paid to victims of crime—funded by criminals’ cash and assets recovered through confiscation orders. During 2011-12 the total value of outstanding impositions decreased from £1.9 billion to £1.8 billion. We recognise that more must be done to tackle this outstanding debt.
Seventy-five per cent of the orders imposed in 2011-12 have already been paid in full. Of the balance outstanding, £1.2 billion is made up of confiscation orders. Around one third of this is money that cannot be collected—
£141 million (12%) relates to individuals who are deceased, deported or who cannot be located, £40 million (3%) relates to orders which are being appealed and cannot be enforced while under appeal; and £154 million (13%) relates to orders where following the conclusion of financial forensic investigations the assets have been assessed as hidden. Also, £278 million is interest which has accrued on confiscation orders which are outside the agreed payment terms.
Cracking down on those who do not pay is an absolute priority. The agencies involved in enforcement, including the Ministry of Justice, the Home Office, the Serious Fraud Office and the Crown Prosecution Service take every step to tackle outstanding debt including targeted fine blitzes, taking deductions from offenders’ benefits or their earnings and by seizing and selling their property and goods. Those who do not pay can go to prison.
Criminals go to extraordinary lengths to hide the proceeds of their crimes by transferring funds abroad and disguising it with friends and family, but we are succeeding in recovering more money every year. The agencies responsible for enforcement are building better relationships with overseas authorities and engage specialist forensic teams to track down hidden assets.
Crucially, an outstanding order stops the criminal benefiting from the proceeds of crime and from using it for further criminal activity. If they ever surface, the assets will be seized.
HMCTS is actively seeking a commercial partner to help increase fine collection, reduce enforcement costs and importantly, ensure more criminals pay. Also, a new system is being implemented to improve the collection of fixed penalty notices, making payment easier and further improving the financial information.
The continuing improvement the agencies are making, combined with our future plans will ensure that more criminals pay and that taxpayers get better value for money.