Three West Sussex drug dealers are to have a total of more than £67,000 confiscated by court orders, as Sussex Police continue to put pressure on offenders by stripping them of their criminal profits.
At Lewes Crown Court on 29 March, Liam McGovern, 24, of Iveagh Close, Crawley, was given a Confiscation Order under the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA), requiring him to pay £33,424.16 within three months or face a ten-month prison sentence and still have to pay the full amount.
McGovern had been convicted in 2019 of convicted of two counts of possession with intent to supply cannabis, possession of cocaine and the acquire, use or possession of criminal property, and on 18 October that year was sentenced to 21 months imprisonment.
His arrest came after police conducted an intelligence-led warrant at an address in Chaldon Road, Broadfield in Crawley, in September 2018. McGovern was spotted in the back garden and upon seeing officers, escaped but was subsequently traced and arrested.
A search of the property found a quantity of herbal cannabis, cannabis resin, cannabis oil, cocaine and THC were discovered. Officers also found almost £8,500 in cash hidden throughout the property, with the largest amount being discovered from inside a giant yellow Lego head.
In a hearing on 30 March for a separate case at the same Court, Confiscation Orders were given to Nigel Slator, 33, and Somphorn King, 40, of Burnside Crescent, Sompting.
Slator is required to pay £28,981.75 within three months or face 10 months in prison and still have to pay the full amount.
King is required to pay £5000 within three months or face threemonths in prison and still have to pay the full amount.
Both had been arrested in January 2019 after police had been called to their address after reports of a dispute and on smelling a strong aroma of cannabis searched the house and found two bedrooms set up in various stages of cannabis production with potential estimated street value yield of up to £89,000.
In September 2020 Slator had been given a two-year prison sentence suspended for two years, and King had been given a six-month sentence suspended for two years, having each admitted being involved in the production of cannabis.
Using powers under POCA, the force had successfully applied to courts during financial year 2019/20 for 228 confiscation orders following criminal convictions, valued at £1,829.000.
The force also obtained 41 civil forfeiture orders valued at £259,000, following cash seizures from suspected offenders, and over ?????£x for compensation to individual victims.
Figures for 2020/21, to be collated during April, are expected to exceed those totals.
Detective Inspector Mark O'Brien of the force's Economic Crime Unit said "These orders come from the continued hard work by our officers, and in particular our expert financial investigators.
"Wherever possible we now target not just the criminals but also the profits of their crimes, whether they are from drug dealing or any other form of criminal activity. It can take time and each investigation results in an application for a court-authorised confiscation order.
"Criminals need to know that where we think they have profits, hidden though they may be, we don’t give up after sentencing. Financial investigation is increasingly at the heart of criminal investigation.
"POCA also allows for cash to be seized under civil forfeiture, if it is suspected to be from crime or it is suspected that it will be used for an unlawful purpose. It does not require anyone to be prosecuted for a criminal offence, rather that Magistrates decide that it has been obtained as a result of a criminal enterprise, or intended in the future for such use, based on the evidence surrounding its discovery.
"Any funds obtained through POCA confiscation or cash forfeiture orders go to the central Government exchequer.
"However a proportion of this is returned to law enforcement. Sussex Police receive 50% cash back from cash forfeitures and 18.75% cash back from seized confiscation orders.
"POCA funding received by Sussex Police is then distributed equally between the Police & Crime Commissioner and the force.
"We currently employ an extra six Financial Investigators and two Financial Intelligence Officers from part of these funds to continue the fight in seizing criminal assets, with the remainder being used to support crime reduction and diversion projects."
Mark O'Brien said; "The fact that this money taken from criminals is going back both to support our work and into our local communities is very satisfying."