Lancashire Constabulary’s Serious and Organised Crime Unit tackles serious and organised crime across the county.
Organised Crime can take many different guises, from sophisticated drugs importation and supply networks, organised people trafficking leading to enforced labour or prostitution, to high profit environmental crime and professional money laundering used to legitimise criminal income.
But organised crime also permeates down to street level and may directly affect you and your family. The drug dealers on street corners, people in the local pub selling contraband goods, outbreaks of violence that can frighten and intimidate those who witness it are often linked to Organised Crime Groups (OCGs).
Lancashire Constabulary is committed to tackling organised criminals and restricting their opportunities to thrive and undermine decent, law abiding citizens.
In the last two years alone more than 100 criminals from OCGs throughout Lancashire have been jailed for a total of 560 years as a result of six complex drugs investigations by the Serious and Organised Crime Unit.
The investigations, codenamed Operation Oak, Operation Sabine, Operation Oriole, Operation Sienna, Operation Victor and Operation Legacy, have successfully dismantled numerous organised crime gangs responsible for flooding the county with Class A, B and C drugs including heroin, cocaine, cannabis and amphetamine.
During these investigations officers in Lancashire have seized a total of 19 kilograms of cocaine worth approximately £2.7 million, 8 kilograms of heroin worth approximately £1.3 million, 80 kilograms of cannabis worth approximately £1 million and 50 kilograms of amphetamine worth approximately £1 million.
Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA)
What is “POCA”?
The Proceeds of Crime Act is a piece of legislation which gives police the power to pursue criminals through the courts and strip them of their ill-gotten gains. This includes cash and assets such as houses and cars bought by criminals with money they have amassed through crime. It means that anyone who profits from crime runs the risk of losing the financial and lifestyle gains they have enjoyed as a result of their criminal activity.
POCA strikes directly at the main motive for crime, deterring offenders, and disrupting organised crime, sending out a clear message that crime doesn’t pay. The money recovered and made through the sale of the criminal’s assets can then be put back into community projects and helps to fund further investigations.
How does it work?
Confiscation Orders (Crown Court)
A confiscation order can be made by the Crown Court to deprive criminals of the benefit from their crimes. If it is proven that a criminal has committed an acquisitive crime (i.e. theft) and they have benefited from that crime, then a Financial Investigator can identify the value of any assets that the criminal has (including bank accounts, houses, vehicles). This can then be used to pay back the amount they are said to have benefited from their crime, even if the assets are legally held. If the application for a confiscation order is successful, criminals have a specified number of days, weeks, months to pay the full amount or be subject to a prison sentence.
Forfeiture Orders (Magistrates Court)
A forfeiture order can also be made against a person at the Magistrates Court using the Proceeds of Crime Act. This is only made against cash which is believed to be the proceeds of crime or intended for use in crime. An order can be made even if someone has not been charged or convicted of a criminal offence.
Benefits of POCA
- It removes criminal assets from our county that could be used to generate more crime
- Crime is likely to fall as criminals stripped of their assets risk future confiscations if they return to their old ways
- It stifles criminal activity and sends a clear message to everyone including criminals that crime does not pay
- It reduces the iconic status of criminals and crime
- In the last two years, SOCU has seized more than £1.5 million in cash from criminals in Lancashire. A further £2 million worth of assets including cars, properties and expensive jewellery has been confiscated and a further £11 million worth of assets have been frozen under the proceeds of crime legislation.
- The Force’s Open Day, which took place at police headquarters in Hutton in September 2014, was funded by money seized from criminals in Lancashire and was free to the public. It gave them a chance to ‘access all areas’ to understand how crimes are investigated