City of London Police will use law firms and private investigators to help recover assets for the victims of fraud through civil litigation. 

The two-year scheme will give law firms and asset-recovery firms the responsibility for identifying and recovering assets in selected cases, in a push to help the police seize assets more quickly from criminals.

The private firms will work in parallel with any criminal investigations by the police.

Currently the police use the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 to confiscate money, but the civil recovery of assets requires a lower standard of proof, which officers hope will make the process faster and make it more likely for assets to be seized before criminals have a chance to move them.

The City of London Police has set up a working group with representatives from UK law enforcement, including the National Crime Agency, the Metropolitan Police Service, as well as from solicitors and private investigations firms.

Mishcon de Reya, Herbert Smith Freehills and Edmonds Marshall McMahon are among the five firms taking part in the working group. The group will help decide how work will be allocated and how cases will be passed onto law firms. 

Maria Woodall, detective superintendent at the City of London Police, said: ‘We’re looking to use the private sector’s ability and expertise to take back these assets using civil litigation whilst freeing up time for our officers to concentrate on building the criminal cases against those individuals and groups.

‘The pilot will allow us to test out this partnership and see if it delivers the benefits for victims, law enforcement and the private sector that we believe it will.’

The first year of the scheme will be part-funded through the Home Office’s police innovation fund and officers have applied for similar funding for the second year.