Confiscation case dropped by Crown Office after acknowledging

Bernard Levin (The Times, October 15th 1991) wrote that "all estimates of booty mentioned in courts trying cases of alleged drug-dealing, whatever the context, should be divided by five if any serious approximation is to be had. All sums expressed as street value should be divided by nine."

A confiscation proceedings case that was dropped by Crown Office this year illustrates the first point. A young jazz-fusion musician had inherited a house larger than he needed and allowed friends with a penchant for indoor gardening, particularly cultivation of cannabis plants, to rent rooms. When the musician's house was visited by the police, he was arrested and served some time in prison after being convicted of drugs trafficking. The Crown Office served a Prosecutor's Statement on him, accompanied by financial schedules that alleged that over six years he had benefited from crime to the total of over £123,000. Of this, only £38 was attributed to the value of the drugs found in his house. The musician had a girlfriend; although not living together the Crown Office included her bank accounts and income in calculating his alleged benefit. Despite the musician having a bank account, the Crown added statistics for household expenditure on to the figure for bank withdrawals to arrive at total spending. After recognising the iniquity of including the girlfriend's financial affairs in its calculation, and acknowledging that it had "double-counted expenditure the Crown produced an amended calculation of benefit, this time below £27,000. Following a meeting the Crown acknowledged that this comprised legitimate income of £7,000, that it had omitted to remove some £6,000 of the girlfriend's expenditure, and eventually conceded that another £13,000 was a transfer between bank accounts. At this point the Crown dropped the case, despite haggling over the legitimacy of cheques of £125, £110 and several birthday gifts of £40 from grandmother.

The lessons from this are that the Crown will accept as legitimate income supported by "vouching", and will often withdraw the double-counting of expenditure as a first concession. However, the Crown is likely to be pernickety over relatively trivial amounts. Also, it does not use double-entry bookkeeping in calculating alleged benefit, and this omission leads to basic errors. Therefore, as a first step in examining a Prosecutor's Statement, return to basics and translate Crown Schedules into financial statements that use double-entry.