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Read more articles in: Blog, Criminal, Mandeep Sehmi

My possessions have been seized by the police – What happens now?

If you are unfortunate to be arrested at any point in your life the police may seize your personal possessions as part of their investigations.

They have the power to do this under Section 19 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE 84), which gives a constable the right to seize anything which they have reasonable grounds to believe:

  • Has been obtained in consequence of the commission of an offence;
  • Is evidence in relation to an offence which is being investigated; and
  • Is necessary to seize to prevent it being concealed, lost, damaged, altered or destroyed.

There are few limits on what can be seized, and they could take your phone, computer, clothing, vehicles or money if they believe that it is linked to the crime you are alleged to have committed.

The loss of these items can clearly be traumatic and have a considerable impact on your daily life, so how long will it take to recover the items? And could they be confiscated permanently?

How can you recover items seized by the police?

Once the police have carried out their enquiries, which could include a forensic examination of the items that they have recovered, a decision on whether to return your property must be made. This will be based on the evidential value of the item to an investigation.

Where the police or prosecutors decide that the item does have sufficient evidential value to an investigation, they are likely to retain this item so that it can be used against you in court.

However, if any items seized during your arrest do not form part of the case brought against you then the property must be returned to you unless it is illegal to possess, such as drugs, knives or firearms, which must be forfeited and destroyed.

Clearly, if you are arrested but no charges are brought against you or they are later dropped, then the items seized should be returned to you.

The police should confirm with you at some point whether the items seized will be retained or released. However, it is advised that you:

  • Make contact with the officer dealing with the case to ensure the return of all items that have been seized
  • Ask for a full record of the items seized at the time or following your arrest
  • Confirm with the arresting officer where your property is being held
  • If seized property is released, you should confirm with the officer that they have been authorised to do so.

You may be asked to recover your property from the original station where you were arrested or you could be asked to go to a police property store.

In either case, you should bring:

  1. Your custody number
  2. Formal identification
  3. A copy of any written correspondence regarding the release of your property.

If the Police still will not return your property, then you may need to seek legal advice and bring an action under the Police Property Act, which compels the Police to return your belongings.

When can the police or courts permanently confiscate your property?

Typically, the police will hold all relevant property until a case has been resolved.

However, in some cases, they may keep items after a conviction, such as where a future hearing relates to the confiscation of illegal assets or where you intend to launch an appeal.

In some cases, where large sums of money are seized, the police are duty bound under various rules and regulations to retain this until the source of this income is confirmed. In these circumstances, it is best to seek legal advice.

Finally, the courts may make an order for the confiscation of assets under the Criminal Justice Act 1988, Criminal Justice (International Co-operation) Act 1990, Drug Trafficking Act 1994, Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (POCA) and Criminal Finances Act 2017 (CFA). Matters relating to these acts can be complex and so it is best to seek professional legal advice.

Have you been accused of committing a crime? We help clients through all stages of the criminal justice process. For advice and representation, get in touch with our expert team today.

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