POCA Success: Available Amount Reduced by Over £350,000
Our client pleaded guilty to a large-scale conspiracy to supply heroin and cocaine over an 11-month period in 2017, and in 2018 he was sentenced to 21 years’ imprisonment.
During the confiscation proceedings, the Prosecution claimed our client benefit figure was £402,506.28, which was the total value of the drug conspiracy and cash seized from his home address on arrest. The prosecution’s position was that given the large-scale value of the conspiracy, our client had ‘hidden assets’ available to him equal to the benefit figure which they had been unable to identify. This put the evidential burden on us because if the court made this finding, and our client could not satisfy the order and pay £402,506.28, he would face a default sentence of up to five years imprisonment that he would have to serve consecutive to his lengthy sentence.
We carefully reviewed all arguments advanced by the prosecution and argued that the benefit figure should be £153,686.28, which was the total value of the drugs received by our client to sell and the cash seized from his home address. In our preparation of this case, we instructed a drugs expert whose report explained the day-to-day ‘running costs’ which the court ought to consider when determining the benefit figure. The expert set out the pecuniary benefit to our client and distinguished this lesser sum from the total value of the drugs, as it would take account of the purchase cost and incidental costs.
In respect of the available amount, we made clear to the prosecution the realities of our client’s limited financial position that was wholly consistent with the available amount being confined to the cash seized from his home address. We drew on established case law to argue that, for the purposes of calculating the available amount, the drugs ought to be valued as being worthless since there exists no lawful market (R. v Islam  UKHL 30).
After lengthy negotiations, the Prosecution agreed to a benefit figure of £153,686.28 and an available amount of £15,000. A Confiscation Order to this effect was made by the court and the default sentence was set at 6 months. Our client was delighted with this outcome.