In today’s world, where financial regulations and law enforcement efforts are increasingly stringent, individuals and businesses may find themselves facing Account Freezing Orders (AFOs) and Account Forfeiture Orders. These orders can have a profound impact on one’s financial stability and reputation. However, what if you successfully challenge these orders or if no money is forfeited in the end? Can you seek compensation for the disruption and losses you’ve endured? Let’s dive into the details of this complex legal landscape and explore your options.
Understanding Account Freezing Orders (AFOs) and Account Forfeiture Orders
AFOs and Account Forfeiture Orders are legal tools employed by law enforcement agencies, such as regional police forces, the Serious Fraud Office (SFO), and the National Crime Agency (NCA), following their introduction under the Criminal Finances Act 2017. These orders allow authorities to freeze bank accounts when they have reasonable grounds to suspect that the funds are either “recoverable property” or “intended for use in unlawful conduct.”
Once an account is frozen, the authorities can apply to have the funds forfeited if they can convince the court that the money held in the account is indeed recoverable. This process can have serious consequences for account holders, and it often leads to legal challenges.
Can I Get Compensation If No Money Is Forfeited?
If an Account Freezing Order is set aside without any of the frozen funds being forfeited, there is a possibility to apply for compensation. However, the key factor here is that none of the money must be forfeited; even if only a portion of the frozen funds is forfeited, the right to seek compensation is effectively blocked.
The court has the discretion to award compensation, and it usually considers whether “exceptional circumstances” exist. Unfortunately, the term “exceptional circumstances” is not precisely defined in the law. Examples might include situations where the authorities have been egregiously slow and negligent in their investigation. In the absence of exceptional circumstances, your chances of receiving compensation are slim.
Given the unique nature of each case, seeking legal advice is invaluable in determining whether you have a valid claim for compensation.
Determining the Compensation Amount
The amount of compensation is not fixed and depends on factors like the extent of your losses and whether they were caused by the Account Freezing Order.
Recovering the Costs of Challenging an Account Freezing Order
It’s essential to distinguish between “costs” and “compensation.” Compensation is awarded to compensate for losses due to the Account Freezing Order, while costs refer to the money spent on your legal defence.
In most AFO cases, the starting point is that there should be no order as to costs, meaning each party bears their own costs. In simpler terms, you won’t typically recover the money you spent on your legal defence. However, if there is unreasonable conduct on the part of the authorities, you may argue that the court should depart from this starting point and award you your costs. This situation often requires specialised legal guidance.
How JMR Solicitors Can Assist You
At JMR Solicitors, we possess extensive experience in handling cases involving Account Freezing Orders and Account Forfeiture Orders. Our expertise encompasses:
- Advising on the lawfulness of these orders.
- Mounting successful challenges to freezing orders, which may involve applications to set aside the order or contesting extensions.
- Handling appeals against forfeiture.
We understand that losing access to your funds can be highly disruptive and damaging, both financially and reputationally. We believe in a careful and considered approach to navigate these complex legal processes.
When challenging a freezing or detention order or appealing an Account Forfeiture Order, the burden of proof lies with the applicant. While the civil standard (the balance of probabilities) applies, it’s crucial to present compelling evidence to demonstrate the “clean” origins of the money. This process may take time and requires skilful submissions to the court.
Furthermore, we are mindful of the potential adverse implications for third parties that may arise during these legal challenges, and we take steps to address these concerns.
In conclusion, the journey to seeking compensation or recovering costs after an Account Freezing or Forfeiture Order is complex and requires expert legal guidance. At JMR Solicitors, we are here to guide you through this process, ensuring your rights and interests are protected every step of the way. If you find yourself facing such legal challenges, don’t hesitate to reach out to us on 0161 491 3933 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for professional assistance.