Criminal “Mr Bigs” could be banned from travelling abroad and going out at night until they hand back their illegal profits under potential reforms to be considered by the government’s law advisers.
The Law Commission says making life “uncomfortable” for offenders with outstanding debts could be more effective at “incentivising” them to return unlawful gains than existing methods.
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The advisory body will also look at other “creative ideas” — including electronic tags — to improve repayment rates, while some of the money recovered from criminals could be used to reimburse victims of other offences who might struggle to obtain compensation.
The potential reforms will be considered as part of a consultation that will be launched later this year by the Law Commission on how to improve the confiscation order system.
Some £2 billion in orders and interest charges levied on offenders is outstanding.
Professor David Ormerod QC, commissioner for criminal law, said flaws in the way proceeds of crime were calculated by courts meant much of this money would never be recovered. So one aim of the overhaul would be to make confiscation orders more realistic. But he said that at least £600 million of unpaid orders was already potentially recoverable and new methods to encourage offenders to pay needed to be considered.
This included the idea of allowing offenders to go free once their sentence was served, rather than immediately seeking an additional “default” prison term.
Professor Ormerod said repayment rates were low among those serving an extra default sentence. Instead curfews and travel bans could be used to encourage payment, with the threat of offenders being returned prison if they still failed to pay.
He told the Standard: “Is prison the only default? You can make a person’s position very uncomfortable if you put together a package of other orders. You could have a foreign travel ban, a curfew, a tag, all sorts of restrictive orders and you could come up with more creative packages.”
Offenders with large unpaid debts include fraudster Gerald Smith, who owes £66 million from an order imposed in 2007. He has taken hundreds of flights round the world since being freed.