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Botched Manchester SOCA raids challenged in court

Victims sue for damages after money-laundering warrants were ‘unlawful’, reports Simon Binns

Written by . Published on August 19th 2010.

Botched Manchester SOCA raids challenged in court

A series of high-profile raids carried out by the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) in and around Manchester earlier this year have been deemed unlawful by the High Court.

Several victims have sued SOCA for damages after the removal of items seized as evidence in the April raids was also found to be unlawful. The items have been returned to their owners.

Warrants issued by Manchester Crown Court to raid homes and businesses on suspicion of money laundering led to 11 arrests, but no formal charges.

One man, known as R Cummins, took Manchester Crown Court to the High Court over three warrants issued against him by His Honour Judge Henshall. Eighteen police officers seized items from his home and work addresses.

The High Court judgement said SOCA had admitted the warrants had been obtained unlawfully in July but did not immediately return the items belonging to Mr Cummins. He is now waiting to be awarded costs on a claim for aggravated damages.

The warrants, according to a High Court judgement published last month, ‘did not give sufficient indication of the nature of the investigation.’

Costs are not yet determined in the Cummins case, although sources close to the situation said they were likely to be around £30,000. SOCA has also paid out in linked claims relating to three other individuals.

Rupert Bowers, who represented Mr Cummins at the High Court, said: “There is an issue of cost to the tax payer in all this. There were 18 officers on one warrant.“SOCA did not observe the correct processes but there was an absolute refusal to acknowledge the consequences of unlawful conduct.”

Sefton Kwasnik, partner at the Manchester-based law firm Betesh Partnership, was also involved in a legal claim against SOCA in an unrelated series of raids.

He said that people were often hesitant to challenge the police or the court system. “It is rare, but you can challenge these things. Organisations have to act lawfully,” he said.

“The methodology of obtaining warrants must stand up to scrutiny. They can’t simply be done on the nod.”

A SOCA spokesman said: "A Judicial Review ruled the warrants obtained by SOCA on 16 April 2010 to search the properties of Mr Cummins as unlawful. The Judicial Review also ordered the immediate return of any seized material belonging to Mr Cummins which was done on 28 July 2010.

“SOCA sought a further court order to re-seize the material under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002. This order was granted on 4 August in Manchester Crown Court. The legal process is still ongoing and it would be inappropriate to comment any further."

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G OsbourneAugust 19th 2010.

It's not a quango but I'll close you down anyway...

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