Supreme Court Rules Against Crown Prosecution Service In Proceeds Of Crime Case

3 November 2021

The Supreme Court of England & Wales has this morning unanimously decided against the CPS in the Aquila case(1). The ruling confirms that a company’s property rights are not trumped by a criminal confiscation order.

The Supreme Court upheld the decisions of the lower courts on this case. The decision confirmed that a director who breaches their duties cannot keep resulting profit, and cannot ascribe their own illegal acts to the company in order to defeat a claim against them by the company. Today’s decision confirms that this principle applies even if the company itself stood to benefit from the illegal act.

Had the CPS been successful, directors might have been able to argue that they could keep the proceeds of a fraud if the company would also have benefitted. The CPS has various means of securing the proceeds of crime, but trying to enforce a criminal confiscation order in the face of competing third-party property rights was not the right approach in this case.

Ryan Mowat, Dispute Resolution Partner at Kingsley Napley who represented Aquila said:

We welcome the unanimous decision of the Supreme Court today. This ruling avoids creating real uncertainty in the law – directors who have breached their duties must continue to account to a company for any secret profit received, even where it is said that the company also stands to benefit. The Supreme Court was clear that the law around proceeds of crime and the established property rights under civil law are not incompatible”.

This Supreme Court victory is the second for Kingsley Napley in the past fortnight following the FS Cairo v Brownlie case, and the second Supreme Court success for the firm involving a civil/criminal crossover after Ivey v Genting (2017). The case was conducted by Ryan Mowat, Hannah Fitzwilliam, and Anna Metadjer from the firm’s Dispute Resolution team and was supported by Alun Milford and Sophie Wood from their Criminal practice. The Counsel team were Stuart Ritchie QC, Martin Evans QC, and Sam Neaman. 

Ryan Mowat is available for interview.

(1) Case Details

Crown Prosecution Service v Aquila [2021] UKSC 49, judgment 3 November 2021


About Kingsley Napley

Kingsley Napley LLP is a leading UK based law firm providing expertise for our clients’ business and private lives, when it matters most. We advise in the following areas: employment law, private client advisory, public law, criminal defence litigation, corporate and commercial, dispute resolution, family law, medical negligence & personal injury, regulatory, real estate, construction and immigration.

Kingsley Napley is ranked as the number one UK law firm to work for in the Best Companies to Work List 2021 list. The firm ranked 79 in The Lawyer’s Top 200 UK Law Firms 2021 list by revenue.


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