Criminals forced to pay back £1.2 million from proceeds of crime
Criminals across Avon and Somerset have been forced to pay back more than £1.2 million from the proceeds of their crimes since April.The money, which includes more than £600,000 compensation to victims of crime, has been recouped through the courts under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.Criminals jailed for a variety of drug, fraud and other offences have had confiscation orders imposed on them to ensure they pay the penalty for their illegal activities while also paying back money to charities, businesses and organisations they have swindled.In some cases criminals have funded lavish lifestyles using the proceeds of their crimes, including luxury cars, houses and holiday homes.If criminals fail to pay back the confiscation order in full by the time they have served their prison sentence they face a further term of imprisonment.Among those who have been ordered to pay back their ill-gotten gains are Stephen Parry who was employed by Bristol City Council as a team leader responsible for adapting the homes of disabled adults. He was convicted of stealing £117,782.05 worth of property he bought for himself with council money. In September the Wells man was sentenced to 20 months in prison and a confiscation order of £135,832.21 was made ordering him to pay within 6 months or serve a further 18 months in prison. The money will be used to compensate Bristol City Council, easing the burden on council tax payers. In September 2005 Lee Meredith was convicted of possession of drugs with intent to supply and in February 2006 a confiscation order was made after Bristol Crown Court found that he had benefited from crime to the tune of £41,291.36. He only had assets of £13,602.84 and so was ordered to pay £13,000. In August this year police spoke to Meredith in connection with another matter and identified that he had paid a large sum of cash into his bank account. The Financial Investigation Unit obtained a restraint order to freeze his bank account and earlier this month Bristol Crown Court ordered that Meredith pay a further £11,676.73 within 56 days or serve another six months in prison. Avon and Somerset Police's Financial Investigation Unit has also been using powers to forfeit cash which was obtained through crime even if no-one is convicted. Since April Avon and Somerset Police has obtained 16 forfeiture orders totalling £194,269.05.Dr Kirstie Cogram, manager of the financial investigation unit said: "Compensation for victims remains the main drive of the financial investigators, reinforced by the desire to tackle crime at all levels. "Since the Proceeds of Crime Act was introduced Avon and Somerset has introduced financial investigators to each of its six policing districts. They provide specialist support and advice to all areas of frontline policing operations and ensure that crime does not pay across all levels of crime."Criminals have a negative impact on our communities and we will continue to work hard to ensure that they are not allowed to live off the proceeds of crime. We will ensure that criminals are not able to live in large houses, drive around in expensive cars and live luxurious lifestyles to the cost of hard working members of the public. We will also, where possible, work to ensure that victims of the crimes receive compensation."
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