CRIMINALS in West Mercia and Warwickshire have been made to pay back more than £2 million during the past year with nearly half being returned to victims, police have revealed.

The money has been secured through the courts by the Forces’ joint Economic Crime Unit following detailed investigation into the financial assets of convicted criminals in the force area including Herefordshire and Worcestershire.

Detective Inspector Mark Glazzard, head of the Unit, said: “Inquiries carried out by police financial investigators during 2013/14, resulted in a total of £2.3 million in confiscation orders being granted under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

“These were granted against offenders across a broad spectrum of crimes, including fraud, theft and drug trafficking. The amount includes over £1 million to compensate victims from some of those crimes.”

Confiscation and forfeiture cases brought by the Police Economic Crime Unit during 2013/14, include

£10,000 from a Worcester man jailed for drug offences, £4,960 from a Worcester couple who received a suspended prison sentence for cultivating cannabis at their home and £35,000 from a Martley man jailed for two years in a drugs case.

Further cases include £211,657 from a Ledbury woman jailed for two years after stealing and defrauding her Hereford employers and £15,000 from a Bidford-on-Avon man jailed for four years nine months for possessing heroin and crack cocaine with intent to supply.

DI Glazzard said the Unit had also secured more than £200,000 in cash forfeiture applications made under the same Act.

“Overall, this is a significant result and demonstrates our commitment to ensuring criminals do not leave the judicial system with any benefit from their criminality," he said.

“When someone has been convicted, we make application to the courts to strip them of any benefit gained from their criminal conduct, even if it means they have to sell assets, including major items such as their car and home.

“They then have a specified period to comply with the order and pay back the money. Failure to do so automatically results in a prescribed and often lengthy further period in prison."

DI Glazzard added that money was at the heart of all organised crime, especially when involving drugs.

“The lifestyle and status it brings is the main motivation for most criminals," he said. "Without cashflow, deals can’t be made and people can’t be paid. For these reasons, many organised criminals fear attacks on their finances and lifestyle more than prison.

“We are continuing to work with our partner agencies such as the Crown Prosecution Service and the Court and Tribunal Service to target criminals in any way we can, not just through prosecutions but by hitting them where it hurts – in their pockets.

"If you know someone who is benefitting from crime in any way, do call the police on 101."