Regina v Soneji and Bullen: HL 21 Jul 2005

The defendants had had confiscation orders made against them. They had appealed on the basis that the orders were made more than six months after sentence. The prosecutor now appealed saying that the fact that the order were not timely did not invalidate them.
Held: The appeal was allowed. The confiscation orders made by the judge were valid and the Court of Appeal was wrong to quash them.
The court considered the different kinds of obligation and restriction created by statutes. Section 71 creates a duty on the court to consider the making of a confiscation order. The repeated use of the expression ‘jurisdiction’ tends to distract attention from the fact that what is an issue is not the loss of a power to consider the making of such an order but the dissolution of a duty to do so. It is a duty which Parliament plainly envisaged as capable of subsisting after the offender had been sentenced and after more than six months since his conviction. The 1988 Act should be construed in a manner consistent with that purpose (Steyn and Carswell LL).
Lord Steyn said: ‘Parliament has firmly adopted the policy that in the fight against serious crime, apart from ordinary sentences, a high priority must be given by the courts to the making of confiscation orders against defendants convicted of serious offences. The purpose of confiscation proceedings is to recover the financial benefit that the offender obtained from his criminal conduct . . The most recent statute is the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 which came into force on 24th March 2003. The aim of the new statute is to create an effective unified regime of confiscation law.’
. . And ‘A recurrent theme in the drafting of statutes is that Parliament casts its commands in imperative form without expressly spelling out the consequences of a failure to comply. It has been the source of a great deal of litigation. In the course of the last 130 years a distinction evolved between mandatory and directory requirements. The view was taken that where the requirement is mandatory, a failure to comply with it invalidates the act in question. Where it is merely directory, a failure to comply does not invalidate what follows. There were refinements. For example, a distinction was made between two types of directory requirements, namely (1) requirements of a purely regulatory character where a failure to comply would never invalidate the act, and (2) requirements where a failure to comply would not invalidate an act provided that there was substantial compliance. ‘
. . And ‘Having reviewed the issue in some detail I am in respectful agreement with the Australian High Court that the rigid mandatory and directory distinction, and its many artificial refinements, have outlived their usefulness. Instead . . the emphasis ought to be on the consequences of non-compliance, and posing the question whether Parliament can fairly be taken to have intended total invalidity. That is how I would approach what is ultimately a question of statutory construction.’
Lord Rodger of Earlsferry illustrated the point with a striking example: ‘if your young daughter wants to go out with friends for the evening and you agree, but tell her that she must be home by eleven o’clock, she is under a duty to return by then. But this does not mean that her duty is to return by then or not at all. Rather, even if she fails to meet your deadline, she still remains under a duty to return home. On the other hand, if you contract with a conjuror to perform at your daughter’s birthday party, you want the conjuror and his tricks only for the party. His duty is accordingly limited to performing at the party held on your daughter’s birthday and, if he fails to turn up, he cannot discharge the duty later. In the present cases Parliament has placed the court under a duty, where appropriate, to make a confiscation order before it sentences an offender. If the court fails to do so and proceeds to sentence the offender first, does Parliament intend that – like your daughter – the court should remain under a duty to make the order? Or does Parliament intend that the duty should be limited so that – like the conjuror – the court can perform it only before sentencing?’


Lord Steyn, Lord Rodger of Earlsferry, Lord Cullen of Whitekirk, Lord Carswell, Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood


[2005] UKHL 49, Times 22-Jul-2005, [2005] 3 WLR 303, [2006] 1 AC 340, [2006] 1 Cr App R(S) 79, [2006] Crim LR 167, [2005] 4 All ER 321, [2006] 2 Cr App R 20


Bailii, House of Lords


Criminal Justice Act 1988 71(1) 72A(3)


England and Wales


CitedAttorney-General for Northern Ireland v Gallagher HL 1961
The defendant appealed against his conviction for the murder of his wife. The court allowed his appeal on the ground of a misdirection. The prosecutor having now appealed, he sought to plead insanity.
Held: The appeal was allowed on the new . .
CitedSimpson v Regina CACD 23-May-2003
The appellant challenged a confiscation order made on his conviction of VAT fraud. It was argued that one could not be made unless a proper notice had been given, and none of the offences occurred before 1995. On the assumption that section 1 of the . .
CitedPalmer, Regina v CACD 11-Oct-2002
The defendant appealed against a very substantial confiscation order. The prosecution had served notices under sections 71 and 72(1), but the section 72(1) notice was invalid. The judge allowed a second notice to be served, and the case to be . .
CitedSekhon, etc v Regina CACD 16-Dec-2002
The defendants appealed against confiscation orders on the basis that in various ways, the Crown had failed to comply with procedural requirements.
Held: The courts must remember the importance of such procedures in the fight against crime, . .
CitedRuddick v Regina CACD 16-Apr-2003
A judge was required to take into account a confiscation order before making an order for costs, but that need not invalidate the orders. Was a financial order made before the forfeiture process was complete void or merely a ground for appeal? The . .
CitedWang v Commissioner of Inland Revenue PC 19-Oct-1994
(Hong Kong) At first instance the judge found that the deputy commissioner lacked jurisdiction to make two determinations since he had not done so within a reasonable time required by the imperative language of the statute. The Court of Appeal . .
CitedRegina v Kensington and Chelsea Royal London Borough Council Ex parte Hammell CA 1989
Parker LJ said of the plaintiff’s application for a review of the decision on her homelessness application: ‘She is entitled to protection with regard to her public law right to have the necessary inquiries made and the decision properly made . . . .
CitedCharles v The Judicial and Legal Service Commission and The Disciplinary Tribunal PC 19-Jun-2002
PC (Trinidad and Tobago) Disciplinary proceedings had commenced against the appellant, the chief magistrate, but the time limits had not been followed. The appellant argued that the time limits were mandatory. . .
CitedCredit Suisse v Allerdale Borough Council CA 20-May-1996
Builder’s Guarantee Ultra Vires LA
The council set out to provide a swimming pool using powers under s.19 of the 1976 Act. Purporting to use powers under s.111 of the 1972 Act, it set up a company to develop a site by building a leisure pool and time-share units, with a view to . .
CitedRegina v Secretary of State for the Home Department Ex Parte Jeyeanthan; Ravichandran v Secretary of State for the Home Department CA 21-May-1999
The applicant had failed to comply with the Rules in not using the form prescribed for appliying for leave to appeal against a special adjudicator’s decision to the Immigration Appeal Tribunal. The application, by letter, included all the relevant . .
CitedNew Zealand Institute of Agriculture Science Inc v Ellesmere County 1976
(New Zealand High Court) Cooke J said: ‘Whether non-compliance with a procedural requirement is fatal turns less on attaching a perhaps indefinite label to that requirement than on considering its place in the scheme of the Act or regulations and . .
CitedLondon and Clydeside Estates v Aberdeen District Council HL 8-Nov-1979
Identifying ‘maandatory’ and ‘regulatory’
The appellants had sought a Certificate of Alternative Development. The certificate provided was defective in that it did not notify the appellants, as required, of their right to appeal. Their appeal out of time was refused.
Held: The House . .
CitedAttorney General’s Reference (No 3 of 1999) (Lynn) HL 15-Dec-2000
A DNA sample had been wrongfully retained after the suspect had been acquitted, and the sample had been used in a later investigation to identify him. A subsequent sample had been taken, and the result of that second test had been used as evidence . .
CitedBritish Columbia (Attorney General) v Canada (Attorney General); An Act respecting the Vancouver Island Railway (Re) 1994
(Supreme Court of Canada) The court strongly criticized the mandatory/directory distinction in statutory interpretation: ‘courts tend to ask, simply: would it be seriously inconvenient to regard the performance of some statutory direction as an . .
CitedHoward v Bodington Carc 27-Feb-1877
Imperative or Directory Statutory Requirements
The court considered the consequences of a failure to comply with a statutory requirement.
Held: The distinction drawn between statutory requirements which were ‘imperative’ on the one hand and ‘directory’ on the other involved unfortunate use . .
CitedSociety Promoting Environmental Conservation v Canada (Attorney-General) 2003
(Canada – Federal Court of Appeal) The court considered the exercise of its ability to declare a statute invalid: ‘the more serious the public inconvenience and injustice likely to be caused by invalidating the resulting administrative action, . .
ApprovedProject Blue Sky Inc v Australian Broadcasting Authority 28-Apr-1998
(High Court of Australia) ‘In our opinion, the Court of Appeal of New South Wales was correct in Tasker v Fullwood in criticising the continued use of the ‘elusive distinction between directory and mandatory requirements’ and the division of . .
Appeal fromRegina v Soneji; Regina v Bullen CACD 20-Jun-2003
If the court could only postpone confiscation proceedings in exceptional circumstances, it behoved the court before allowing such an adjournment to enquire into the justification, and to record the circumstances which made it exceptional. The . .

Cited by:

See AlsoRegina v Knights and Another HL 21-Jul-2005
The defendants had been convicted of offences involving dealing with goods on which customs duty had not been paid. After conviction a timetable was set for sentencing and for confiscation proceedings. The House considered the making of the . .
CitedRegina v Stannard CACD 1-Nov-2005
The defendant had been convicted of offences in which he had operated to purchase companies and use false debentures to evade corporation tax. Compensation had been sought under the 1988 Act. It was argued that the confiscation order should be . .
CitedDirector of Public Prosecutions v Wood; Director of Public Prosecutions v McGillicuddy Admn 19-Jan-2006
Each defendant sought disclosure of materials concerning the intoximeter instruments, having been charged with driving with excess alcohol. The defendants said that the meters were inaccurate and that the manufacturers were in effect part of the . .
CitedBentham, Regina (on the Application of) v HM Prison Wandsworth Admn 7-Feb-2006
The defendant sought a writ of habeas corpus, saying that he had been wrongfully committed to the crown court under the 1998 Act. The note referred only to a ‘conspiracy without further specification. The crown court had remitted him to the . .
CitedAshton , Regina v; Regina v Draz; Regina v O’Reilly CACD 5-Apr-2006
The court considered three appeals where there had been a procedural irregularity, and where the judge had taken some step to overcome that irregularity. In two cases the Crown Court judge had reconstituted himself as a district judge to correct a . .
CitedIn re Hill and Others (Restraint Order) CACD 20-Dec-2005
The Revenue appealed against discharge of a restraint order. The discharge had been on the basis that some of the offences under investigation (perpetrating a fraud on the revenue) took place before the 2002 Act came into effect.
Held: The . .
CitedSeal v Chief Constable of South Wales Police HL 4-Jul-2007
The claimant had sought to bring proceedings against the respondent, but as a mental patient subject to the 1983 Act, had been obliged by the section first to obtain consent. The parties disputed whether the failure was a procedural or substantial . .
CitedR, Regina v CACD 4-Apr-2008
The defendant appealed his conviction for rape, saying that the complainant’s evidence had wrongfully been allowed to be given over a remote video link. Provisions to allow such means of giving evidence had been intended to be phased in only as . .
CitedClarke, Regina v; Regina v McDaid HL 6-Feb-2008
An indictment had not been signed despite a clear statutory provision that it should be. The defects were claimed to have been cured by amendment before sentence.
Held: The convictions failed. Sections 1(1) and 2(1) of the 1933 Act which . .
At House of LordsBullen and Soneji v The United Kingdom ECHR 8-Jan-2009
The claimants said that the confiscation and money-laundering proceedings taken against them had taken too long, with delays of 43 months out of a total of 66 month case attributable to the state.
Held: The delay was too long. The applicants . .
At House of LordsBullen And Soneji v The United Kingdom ECHR 15-Jun-2007
. .
CitedJJB Sports Plc, Regina (On the Application of) v Telford and Wrekin Borough Council Admn 5-Nov-2008
The authority’s demand notice was served later than was practicable. The company now appealed against a liability order.
Held: The ratepayer’s appeal by way of Case Stated was dismissed. ‘demand notices must be served by the relevant authority . .
CitedCrown Prosecution Service v Neish CACD 6-May-2010
The defendant faced confiscation proceedings. The judge gave instructions to the listing office to give a later date for the hearing. The defendant said that the delay took the case out of the court’s jurisdiction to make an order.
Held: The . .
CitedNT, Regina v CACD 31-Mar-2010
The prosecutor appealed against a stay of the prosecution as an abuse. The prosecution had failed give the undertaking necessary on lodging the appeal to the court against whose ruling it wanted to appeal, that it agreed that the defendant should be . .
CitedNorth Somerset District Council v Honda Motor Europe Ltd and Others QBD 2-Jul-2010
Delayed Rates Claims Service made them Defective
The council claimed that the defendants were liable for business rates. The defendants said that the notices were defective in not having been served ‘as soon as practicable’, and further that they should not be enforced since the delay had created . .
CitedTTM v London Borough of Hackney and Others CA 14-Jan-2011
The claimant had been found to have been wrongfully detained under section 3. He appealed against rejection of his claim for judicial review and for damages. The court found that his detention was lawful until declared otherwise. He argued that the . .
CitedSecerno Ltd and Others v Oxford Magistrates Court and Another Admn 19-Apr-2011
The applicants each sought judicial review of a decision of the magistrate that he did not have jurisdiction to decline to issue liability notices. They argued that the Council had failed to issue the required notices before placing the properties . .
CitedHerron and Another, Regina (on The Application of) v The Parking Adjudicator CA 27-Jul-2011
The claimant appealed against refusal of judicial review of decisions of the parking adjudicator as to the correctness of 39 penalty charge notices. In each case, they said that the signage supporting the notice, in particular single and double . .
CitedCart, Regina (on The Application of) v The Upper Tribunal and Others CA 23-Jul-2010
The claimant had sought and been refused judicial review of a decision of the SIAC Upper Tribunal. The Upper Tribunals were designated as courts of superior record, and the court at first instance had said that SIACs specialist procedures and . .
CitedStockton-On-Tees Borough Council v Latif Admn 13-Feb-2009
The council appealed against a decision that the crown court had jurisdiction to extend the time for appeal against refusal of a private hire vehicle licence.
Held: The court did not have the jurisdiction it used: ‘The terms of the section 300 . .
CitedAylesbury Vale District Council, Regina (on The Application of) v Call A Cab Ltd Admn 12-Nov-2013
The council appealed against dismissal of its prosecution of the respondent, alleging the operation of a private hire vehicle without having a current licence, ‘in a controlled district’. The respondent had denied that the necessary resolution had . .
CitedIn re X (A Child) (Surrogacy: Time Limit) FD 3-Oct-2014
Extension of Time for Parental Order
The court considered the making of a parental order in respect of a child through surrogacy procedures outside the time limits imposed by the 2008 Act. The child had been born under Indian surrogacy laws. The commissioning parents (now the . .
CitedTrail Riders Fellowship and Another, Regina (on The Application of) v Dorset County Council SC 18-Mar-2015
Objection had been made that a plan, used to register a right of way before it would disappear if un-registered, was to the wrong scale and that therefore the application was ineffetive.
Held: The Council’s appeal failed. The plan was too . .
CitedWestminster City Council v Owadally and Another Admn 17-May-2017
Defendant must plea to charge, and not counsel
The defendants had, through their barrister, entered pleas of guilty, but the crown court had declared the convictions invalid because this had to have been done by the defendants personally, and remitted the cases and the confiscation proceedings . .
CitedShahid v Scottish Ministers (Scotland) SC 14-Oct-2015
The appellant convicted of a racially-aggravated vicious murder. Since conviction he had spent almost five years in segregation from other prisoners. The appellant now alleged that some very substantial periods of segregation had been in breach of . .
CitedGuraj, Regina v SC 14-Dec-2016
The defendant had pleaded to charges of possession of drugs with intent to supply. He was sentenced, but then the prosecutor was 14 months’ late serving its notice with regard to the confiscation order under section 16. The crown now appealed . .
CitedAbdi, Regina v CACD 31-Jul-2007
The appellant had been convicted of a sexual assault on a boy, and recommended for deportation on completion of his sentence. He had not however been served with notice of the possibility of such an order, as required by section 6 of the 1971 Act, . .
CitedMcCool, Regina v SC 2-May-2018
The appellants complained that the recovery order made against them in part under the transitional provisions were unlawful. They had claimed benefits as single people but were married to each other and for a house not occupied. The difficulty was . .
CitedMajera, Regina (on The Application of v Secretary of State for The Home Department SC 20-Oct-2021
The Court was asked whether the Government can lawfully act in a manner which is inconsistent with an order of a judge which is defective, without first applying for, and obtaining, the variation or setting aside of the order. The appellant had been . .
CitedLalchan, Regina v CACD 27-May-2022
Conviction withoiut required Consent was Unsafe
Whether a conviction for an offence which requires the consent of the Attorney General before the proceedings are instituted can stand when no such consent was obtained.
Held: The appellant’s arguments were well-founded and his conviction on . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Criminal Practice, Criminal Sentencing

Leading Case

Updated: 30 June 2022; Ref: scu.228955