Trading Standards confiscation order quashed
The case of Regina v Eric John Moss  EWCA 713 concerned a trading standards prosecution which gave rise to a confiscation order in the sum of £83,000. The Court of Appeal gave judgment in an appeal against the making of that Order and it was ultimately successful. The Appellant was an elderly cattle farmer in Suffolk. He eventually came to the attention of Trading Standards via the Rural Payments Agency who were concerned that he had failed to comply with his regulatory obligations regarding the identification and recording of his cattle. The investigation went on for a long time and widened into allegations that he had been unlawfully slaughtering and butchering cattle and selling it directly to farmers markets and local eateries. Importantly, however, he was only summonsed in connection with regulatory offences and no charges were ever brought in connection with unlawful slaughter or sale of meat. He went along to the Magistrates Court and pleaded guilty whereupon Trading Standards promptly turned around and said they wanted him committed for sentence as they wanted to invoke section 70 Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 and instigate confiscation proceedings. He was committed for sentence to the Crown Court and a Recorder held that the criminal lifestyle provisions were activated by virtue of the fact that the he had obtained criminal property in connection with the regulatory failures and two of the offences had taken place over more than a six month period (see section 75 POCA). This led to the making of the Order and the appeal on two grounds: 1 he had not benefitted from the offences to which he had pleaded guilty; and 2 it was disproportionate to make the Order as he had not been convicted of the offences for which he was said to have benefitted. Sweeney J said that the "confiscation proceedings were flawed from the start". In fact, there had been no proper analysis of section 75 and whether the lifestyle provisions were engaged on the basis of the evidence before the Crown Court. As there was no such finding made by the Recorder the confiscation order was quashed. The Court said: "this case provides another salutary reminder of the need...for a rigorous step-by-step approach to the process of identifying and determining the necessary issues in confiscation proceedings".
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