Restraint Orders are typically sought against individuals under investigation for serious criminal offences such as money laundering, drug trafficking or fraud. They are intended to preserve assets that might later be subject to confiscation proceedings.
Restraint may be sought at an early stage of an investigation by the police, HMRC or another law enforcement agency, or ahead of a criminal trial. Importantly, third parties who are not suspected of wrongdoing may also find their property caught by restraint orders.
We are seeing an increase in the use of restraint orders – and post-conviction confiscation proceedings – as part of the UK Government’s priority to crack down on dirty money and illicit finance.
What is a restraint order?
A court order that has the effect of freezing assets (wherever in the world they might be) when a criminal investigation is underway. The order prevents assets being moved or liquidated and ring-fences them for potential confiscation at a later date.
Restraint orders can be sought without notice and, once in place, can mean assets are frozen for many years, causing huge disruption to the personal and commercial lives of those affected.
Beyond the direct target of a restraint order, other parties can also suffer their devastating effect – be they trustees, companies, spouses or other family members.
Non-compliance with a restraint order is a contempt of court and in extreme cases may be treated as perverting the course of justice. A conviction for either offence usually carries a sentence of imprisonment.
Confiscation is the process by which any financial benefit gained from offending behaviour is recouped by the state following conviction. As with restraint, the effects of confiscation proceedings often extend beyond the offender, most notably when jointly held property is included in the confiscation order.
How we can help
We have extensive experience of acting in all aspects of restraint orders and confiscation and can guide you through every step of the process. We can advise on the following:
- The lawfulness of the restraint order;
- Compliance with the order including repatriation of assets, disclosure and providing a statement of assets;
- Challenging the order by way of application to the court to vary or discharge it;
- Negotiations with the court over living allowance issues;
- Contesting confiscation proceedings or appealing the outcome;
- Advising third parties on their rights.
We understand the importance for individuals and companies of minimising the effect of restraint and confiscation and the need for an urgent response in many cases.
We are accustomed to dealing with the various agencies empowered to act in this area and are renowned for our strategic defence advice to help parties navigate what can be a very stressful time.
For more information please contact one of our specialist restraint and confiscation lawyers.