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"Good faith" defence fails in NCA claim

In NCA v Atkinson & Atkinson [2015] EWHC 1299 the National Crime Agency [NCA] made a claim for a civil recovery order in connection with a number of properties owned by Mr Atkinson. In the end, Mr Atkinson did not defend the Claim. However, one of the properties was held jointly by his wife Mrs Atkinson. She asserted that her interest in the property ought to be protected by section 266 (4) Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 which provides a defence to such a claim where property had been acquired in good faith. Mr Justice Coulson was in little doubt that her husband had acquired all of his property through unlawful conduct which included a mixture of drug dealing, money laundering and mortgage fraud. He also concluded in no uncertain terms that Mrs Atkinson had not even 'obtained' the property let alone in 'good faith'. He cited the difficulty (highlighted in the Brett Wilson LLP case of NCA v Amir Azam and others (No 2) [2014] EWHC 3573] for any Respondent in discharging the heavy burden imposed upon them in successful reliance of this statutory defence by concluding "this statutory scheme is designed to penalise even those who are themselves innocent of wrongdoing, provided that all the relevant POCA boxes can be ticked". This was perhaps not the optimum test for section 266 which is likely to be subjected to closer scrutiny by the Court of Appeal when it hears the appeal by the Respondent in the afore mentioned case of Azam in the Autumn.


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