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Undeclared lawful savings cannot be subject of cash forfeiture

In Begum v West Midlands Police [2012] EWCA 2304 the Appellant had been in possession of £7150 in cash on her person which was seized by the police under section 294 POCA 2002. The Appellant admitted, and it was accepted by the Magistrates Court, that she kept the money in cash so as to avoid its detection for her ongoing benefit claims. The Magistrates Court made an order for forfeiture of the cash on the basis that it was therefore intended for use in unlawful conduct in accordance with section 298(2)(b) of the Act. The Divisional Court (Aikens LJ, Globe J) disagreed. Lord Justice Aikens said: the sole question is whether the actual cash was for use in the intended unlawful conduct of the appellant. Although the forfeiture procedure is not a criminal procedure, the fact that this paragraph of this subsection of this part of POCA provides for summary forfeiture of the lawfully obtained property of a person is a draconian step. This means, in my view, that if there is any doubt or ambiguity in the ambit of the wording we have to construe it my mind, the appellant did not intend to apply this cash in any positive sense to deceive the benefit authorities. The unlawful conduct of concealing the fact that the appellant had more than the limit of savings of £6,000 would have occurred whether or not the appellant had the money in cash.


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