Seizure and Retention of Property in Criminal Investigations and Proceedings.

Posted: 14 March 2024

Police powers in relation to seizure and retention of property concerning a police investigation is covered under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) 1984, section 19. However, all police officers adhere to the regulations outlined in this legislation to have the ability to do so.

  • The officer investigating believes the property has been obtained in consequence of the commission of an offence.
  • The officer investigating must have reasonable grounds to believe that the evidence of the alleged offence is necessary. For example, to prevent the items from being concealed, lost, disposed of, altered, damaged, or destroyed.

This allows the police to have a range of powers to seize whatever property items that they see fit when searching a suspect or their premises.

Seizure & retention of property

Section 352 of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (POCA)

A police power can also be supported by section 352 of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (POCA) if an individual is subject to the following;

  1. A confiscation investigation.
  2. Money Laundering investigation.
  3. Civil Recovery investigation.

It will allow the officer to seize and retain the property which of substantial value to the investigation. In addition, the officer can take anything they think could be related to the commission or the proceeds of crime.

The police can seize different types of property such as;
  • Mobile phones and other technology items.
  • Clothing, Shoes or Jewellery.
  • Alcohol or Drugs.
  • Offensive Weapons.
Is the property ever returned?

When someone is arrested all items are taken from them whilst they are held in custody. However, upon release any property which is not believed to be evidential to the investigation and not illegal, will be returned to them. This can include coins, watches, keys, wallets and mobile phones.

However, if the property forms part of the investigation the property will be seized until the investigation or court proceedings have come to an end. It is a general rule that the individual would receive a form of notification such as, a phone call or a letter, informing them that they can attend the police station to collect their property, and it would explain where to go and who to speak to. It is advised not to just turn up at the police station and demand the property, as the officer in charge of that particular case is required to be on shift in order to authorise the release of the items.

In some cases, property is not returned to an individual if the police or the Crown Prosecution Service make an application to retain the property. The main reason for this would be that the property has derived from criminal activity or intended for the use of a crime. This is what leads to what is known as the POCA proceedings.

Information and support

For more information and advice relating to seized items or Police powers, please contact our Criminal Defence Department. Our criminal defence team are located across 4 of our offices Chelmsford

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