Firm backing from Government Minister to get more criminals cash ploughed back into community (25 Feb 2014)

A campaign by West Yorkshire's Police and Crime Commissioner to get all ill-gotten gains back into the communities affected by crime has reached Parliament.

As it was revealed over £23million in illegal cash and assets has been seized in the county since 2008. 

Mark Burns-Williamson has campaigned for all the cash seized under the Proceeds of Crime Act to come back into West Yorkshire, rather than the current rules where 50 per cent goes back to the Treasury. 

He had previously urged Policing Minister Damian Green to look at closing loopholes with regards to the Act by handing him a letter on the legislation that needs tightening up in December. 

And on Monday, during Mr Green's visit to Leeds and Wakefield, the Policing Minister pledged to introduce legislation to address the loopholes regarding POCA in the next Parliament, a significant step forward for the PCC's campaign. 

Those include being able to seize suspected ill-gotten gains in bank accounts where the prisoner has absconded because at the moment police are powerless to access it with an estimated £1million of inaccessible cash currently sitting in bank accounts across the county.

The PCC also raised the need for tax investigators to be embedded in POCA police investigation teams to ensure complicated cases involving tax evasion and benefits fraud are successfully prosecuted. 

Mr Burns-Williamson said: "The latest meeting with Mr Green moves the POCA campaign on significantly. 

"He said this week that the Government is looking at introducing legislation in the next Parliament to address loop holes in POCA and he recognises the work that West Yorkshire is doing leading the way as a force and what I am doing as Police and Crime Commissioner.

 "I also raised the delays caused by Department of Work and Pensions and HMRC in some POCA cases and what I can say is that the signs are there that the Government is taking this forward. 

"I want a HMRC investigator embedded into these teams to ensure fast track of POCA cases, greater sharing of intelligence and more search and seizure powers. I spoke to the minister about this and he was receptive to the idea so I will look at how to bring that forward. 

"I reiterated the need for more money to come back to West Yorkshire through POCA and if we get all the money it could potentially double the cash available within my Safer Communities Fund and help to keep people safe and feeling safe. 

"At a time of huge Government cuts to our budget it is vital we get every penny back through this process." 

To sign the nationwide campaign to get all the POCA cash back into communities, visit http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/52046

Policing Minister & PCC
Mark Burns-Williamson with Policing Minister Damian Green
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