A MILLION pounds worth of cars belonging to West Yorkshire criminals have been destroyed after a secure police compound in which they were being held was flooded, a court heard.
Widespread damage is understood to have been caused to dozens of vehicles which had been seized by West Yorkshire Police under the Proceeds of Crime Act. The vehicles were being stored at privately-owned premises on behalf of the force.
The incident looks likely to hit the public purse by leading to a reduction in the sums of cash that criminals affected by the deluge will have to pay under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
The incident was referred to during legal arguments in the case of a Leeds gang who are currently serving prison sentences for a major drug dealing conspiracy.
Anthony Sugare, the solicitor representing two of the men - Kevin Steele and Shea Varley - argued that confiscation order sums in their cases should be reduced as they had vehicles destroyed by winter floods.
Mr Sugare told judge Christopher Batty: “Your honour may be aware that a certain number of vehicles - not just restricted to this particular case but other motor vehicles - which I am told could be in excess of one million pounds worth, have been destroyed while stored on behalf of the police while in a private compound.” Mr Sugare added: “I have got another case in another town. I know of at least half a dozen (cases) but I am told by the Crown that it could be up to a million pounds.”
I have got another case in another town. I know of at least half a dozen (cases) but I am told by the Crown that it could be up to a million pounds.Anthony Sugare
Varley, 28, was jailed for nine years and Steele, 28, for four years, eight months, in March last year.
They were among a gang of 12 men jailed for a total of 58 years after they sold around £1.9m of cocaine on the streets of the city. The gang’s domination of the drug market was close to a monopoly over 12 month period.
The gang members were returned to the court for a confiscation order under the Proceeds of Crime Act. The court heard that Varley had benefitted to the tune of £120,000 from his criminal conduct but the total value of assets available to be seized from him was just £7,717.
Varley was initially ordered to pay the lower amount but Mr Sugare argued that the sum should be reduced even further.
He said his Vauxhall car, worth £2,800, had been destroyed in the compound so could no longer be sold. Varley, of Miles Hill Street, Leeds, was then ordered to pay £4,917 by judge Christopher Batty.
Steele’s initial confiscation order had been set at £1,493 but the court heard he had a £1,000 Ford Transit destroyed in the flood. The amount was ordered to pay was reduced to £493. Judge Batty said: “The police must be alive to this because there must be some kind of ongoing issue in relation to this.”
The court heard West Yorkshire Police may be trying to recover some of the loses through insurance.
Confiscation orders under the Proceeds of Crime Act are the mechanism by which the courts are able to recover ill-gotten gains from offenders.
Orders are available following a conviction and proceedings seek to recover any financial benefit that an individual has gained as a result of his offending.
The court works out the value of the benefit in monetary terms that the defendant received, and orders the offender to pay equivalent sum, or less, if a lower sum is available.
The sum is effectively a debt owed by the defendant to the Crown.
If the offender fails to pay the sum, enforcement action can follow, and the offender can be returned to prison.
In 2012, more than 400 criminals in West Yorkshire were brought before the courts and ordered to pay sums under Proceeds of Crime Act proceedings
West Yorkshire Police financial investigators secured court orders worth more than £12m against some of the region’s most sophisticated offenders.