Team seizing ill-gotten gains

Detective Sergeant Bill Hargreaves from the proceeds of crime team at Halifax police station
Detective Sergeant Bill Hargreaves from the proceeds of crime team at Halifax police station
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A PIONEERING police team is teaching offenders crime does not pay by seizing their ill-gotten gains.

Calderdale’s Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) team has taken more than £350,000 from offenders across the district since it was formed two years ago.

Their aim, they say, is to demonstrate that if people commit crime they will not be able enjoy the benefits.

“Gone are the days when people used to come out of prison and live off the proceeds of their crime,” said Detective Sergeant Bill Hargreaves, who leads the POCA team.

“People who commit crime at whatever level will not benefit from that crime.”

The team - comprising specialist officers and financial investigators - has targeted drug dealers, money launderers, cannabis growers and armed robbers.

As well as securing convictions for their criminal activities, they pursue confiscation orders so that offenders are forced to hand over the money they have made.

Criminals usually have six months to pay or face a prison sentence.

Even if they go to jail, they will still be made to hand over the cash when they get out.

The Proceeds of Crime Act, passed in 2002, also means police can chase anyone they suspect of trying to hide money with while offenders are in prison or while they know officers are investigating their finances.

The team currently have around £1 million worth of assets belonging to people they are investigating, including buildings and vehicles, restrained under the act so they can not be sold.

The money seized from crime is either distributed to community groups or ploughed into crime prevention

Recent successes for the POCA team include securing a confiscation order for £14,000 against armed robber Dell Miller.

The 37-year-old was given an indeterminate prison sentence in 2009 for a string of violent thefts across Calderdale which the judge described as “cruelly planned and ruthless”.

An investigation into his finances was launched following his conviction by the POCA team and led to the confiscation order being made in October last year.

Miller was part of a masked gang who burst into Neimantas Jewellers in Commercial Street, Brighouse, in April 2008, waving crowbars.

The month after, three men ambushed Andrew Russell, licensee of the Black Horse Inn, Clifton, as he took his dog for a walk.

The men, wielding hammers and bats, attacked Mr Russell outside then burst into the pub and made off with £441 in takings.

The third raid took place in October 2008 at the Armytage Arms, Clifton.

The manager and a female pub worker were due to deposit the takings but as she waited in the car outside for him, a masked man ran up to the window, smashed it with an axe and stuck a gun to her face.

Miller, of Churn Drive, Buttershaw, Bradford, was traced when his DNA was found in getaway vehicles. He admitted robbery, carrying a firearm and handling stolen goods

Anyone who suspects people of living off the proceeds of crime can help police by getting in touch with CrimeStoppers on 0800 555111.