The amendments will enable legal aid costs to be seized from all assets, alongside compensation for victims and the proceeds of crime.
The Bar Council hailed the announcement as a significant victory in the public interest: “Since 2010 we have been campaigning for this move to take pressure off a legal aid system, which the Government has already squeezed to breaking point,” said Maura McGowan QC, Chairman of the Bar.
The efficacy of the confiscation order system has long come under fire. The value of outstanding fines and orders stood at £1.8bn for 2011-12, HM Courts & Tribunals Service confirmed this year.
New powers have also been announced to recoup legal aid costs from convicted criminals who hide their wealth or refuse to cooperate with financial assessments under the Crown Court Means Testing scheme. From July, a defendant’s motor vehicle can be seized and sold if they are subsequently convicted, supporting changes to the enforcement regime under the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012.