In the Media

Robber's 'rights' delay seizure

PUBLISHED June 14, 2006

AN ARMED robber with a string of convictions has delayed the seizure of ?85,000 in ill-gotten gains for more than three years in a test case that has held up dozens of others.

Cecil Walsh, who served four years for conspiracy to rob a security van in 2001, used a human rights defence at successively higher courts to resist the Assets Recovery Agency.

Walsh, 40, who was released from Maghaberry jail in Northern Ireland last year, has still not had to hand over the house that investigators identified as bought with criminal proceeds. His lawyers argued that, besides the human rights safeguards available to him in civil proceedings, he was entitled to human rights protections provided to defendants in criminal trials. 
This effectively challenged the whole basis of the agency?s ability to seize assets using the lower burden of proof in civil proceedings. It was widely seen as a test of the legislation against the yardstick of human rights.

The agency defeated this argument at the High Court in Belfast and the Court of Appeal for Northern Ireland before the appeal committee of the House of Lords refused Walsh?s petition for leave to appeal there last summer.

That cleared the way for the agency to seek a recovery order in the High Court of Northern Ireland, but still the case has not borne fruit. While the Assets Recovery Agency has found the process much longer than anticipated, it is confident that Walsh?s house will be sold to raise the ?85,000 it seeks. The judgment also confirmed that it could pursue assets obtained from unlawful conduct committed in the past 12 years.

A spokesman said: ?Mr Walsh tried to argue that the civil recovery proceedings were criminal and not civil so should attract enhanced protection provided by Article 6 (2) and (3) of the European Convention on Human Rights. This was rejected.?

These articles mean that everyone charged with a criminal offence shall be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law.