A defendant who failed to satisfy a confiscation order was entitled to have enforcement proceedings by commitment to prison determined within a reasonable time under Art.6(1) European Convention on Human Rights.Application for judicial review of the refusal of District Judge Evans to stay proceedings to commit the applicant ('L') to prison in default of payment of a sum due under a confiscation order. L was convicted in 1996 of conspiracy to handle stolen goods and, in June 1996, a confiscation order was made in the sum of ?33,326 payable within 12 months and with an 18-month term of custody to be served in default. L did not pay the full amount within 12 months and, in July 1997, the CPS indicated that unless the outstanding amount was paid an application would be made to the High Court for a receiver to be appointed. In November 1998, the CPS issued a summons for the appointment of a receiver and the receiver was appointed in January 1999. The receiver did not realise any assets and the receivership was discharged. In December 1999, the CPS asked the magistrates' court to issue a warrant to commit L to prison. In January 2001, the magistrates' court issued a summons for the enforcement of the confiscation order by means of a warrant to commit L to custody for non-payment of the sum outstanding. The hearing of the summons took place in October 2002. L argued that the proceedings should be stayed on the ground that the delay involved a violation of his rights under Art.6(1) of the European Convention on Human Rights to have a criminal charge determined within a reasonable time. The district judge refused a stay holding that although the delay was unjustifiable and unreasonable there was no reason to depart from the decision in R v Chichester & District Justices, Ex parte Crowther (1999) COD 34 that no limitation period applied to enforcing a confiscation order and delay in doing so was not an abuse of process.HELD: (1) The right to have a criminal charge determined within a reasonable time under Art.6(1) of the Convention extended to proceedings to commit a defendant to custody under the default provisions of a confiscation order. Article 6(1) applied to all stages of criminal proceedings, including sentencing and any appeal, and confiscation orders were part of the sentencing process. Article 6(1) applied not only to the confiscation proceedings up to the making of a confiscation order but also to any subsequent proceedings to enforce the order by the issue of a warrant to commit to prison. A defendant who failed to satisfy a confiscation order was entitled to have enforcement proceedings (by commitment to prison) determined within a reasonable time. (2) The approach in Crowther (supra) should not be followed. The right to have proceedings brought to enforce the order by commitment to prison determined within a reasonable time was not affected by the fact that the prosecuting authorities and the courts were not obliged to enforce such orders or by the fact that the defendant was under a continuing duty to satisfy the order. (3) The delay in this case amounted to a breach of Art.6(1). The delay was unexplained and unjustifiable. The appropriate remedy under s.8(1) Human Rights Act 1998 was to stay the enforcement proceedings.Application granted. Proceedings to commit stayed.

[2003] EWHC 2294 (Admin)

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