Homeowner Fined Under Proceeds Of Crime Act For Cutting Back Tree


Image of an Oak tree for blog post


Fined almost £40,000

A homeowner has been fined almost £40,000 for illegally cutting back a mature oak to the rear of his luxury property.

In one of the first claims of its kind, a court has ordered Samuel Wilson to pay £37,200 under the Proceeds of Crime Act, after he illegally chopped back the tree near his home.

Wilson had added a balcony to the master bedroom of his £1 million home in Canford Cliffs, Poole. The balcony was shaded by a 42ft oak tree, which was protected by a Tree Preservation Order (TPO).  A person who contravenes a TPO is guilty of a criminal offence. If found guilty, they can expect to pay a fixed penalty fine.

Wilson ignored the order and decided to cut down branches from the tree without obtaining consent from the Local Authority. A neighbour reported the offence to Poole Borough Council; who then brought proceedings against Wilson for causing wilful damage to a protected tree.

Having pleaded guilty, Wilson was initially fined £1,200.


Proceeds of Crime Act

However, Poole council then decided to prosecute him under the Proceeds of Crime Act. Proceeds of Crime orders, such as the confiscation of property, are normally associated with seizing money from organised criminals. If a person is convicted from having profited from a crime, those funds can be confiscated by the court. However, these powers are increasingly being used by authorities in broader and ever more innovative ways. The result, in addition to relatively nominal fines, is that courts have begun imposing significant – and some would argue punitive – confiscation orders.

In this case the council appointed surveyors to determine the increase in the property’s value following the cutting down of the protected tree. In the opinion of the council’s experts, Wilson’s home increased in value by around £21,000.

Three years after the original conviction, Wilson was ordered to pay £15,000 in legal costs plus the £21,000 additional home value under Proceeds of Crime confiscation orders.


The first of its kind

Poole Council Enforcement Team Manager Andy Dearing said: “We are not aware of any other case in the UK where there has been a Proceeds of Crime case based on the benefit of improved light to a property from the destruction of a tree.

“This whole case was about the sunlight to the back of Mr Wilson’s property. What was the reason and motivation for climbing a 40ft oak tree to remove large limbs from it? The only logical conclusion was it was to create southwest sunlight to the back garden and on to his Juliet balcony. In this case, the maximum fine would have been £2,500. But the Proceeds of Crime Act took the matter to another level, because it looked at the benefit of that criminal activity and we said it was to gain an increase of between £21,000 to £30,000 in the value of his property.”

Wilson’s conviction is the first time damages under the Proceeds of Crime Act have been awarded for a case involving light.


If you feel that you would like advice on a similar matter, please do get in touch either via telephone on 0800 011 6666 or email Timms at legal@timms-law.com.


Post written by Matt Rice,
May 2019

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