‘Crime doesn’t pay’ is more than just an aphorism and the public interest sometimes demands that the sins of those who profit from breaking the law must be visited on their families. In one striking case, which involved a cross-over between family and criminal law, a drug dealer’s wife and children were left facing homelessness.
The husband had been jailed for 11 years for heroin dealing. Under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002, he was issued with a confiscation order for more than £95,000. His wife later launched divorce proceedings and argued that the family home should be excluded from the terms of the order and transferred into her name.
In rejecting her arguments, however, a family judge found that the husband was both the legal and beneficial owner of the property, which was in his sole name. It was highly probable that the purchase price and mortgage repayments were tainted with drugs money and that the wife had known of his criminal activities from the word go. In those circumstances, the Crown Prosecution Service was entitled to sell the property and use the proceeds in satisfaction of the confiscation order.
The judge acknowledged that his ruling meant that the wife and her three children would have nowhere to live. However, the moral of the case was that any family which knowingly builds its home or finances on the sand of criminal activity may well ultimately be stripped of everything.