In R (on the application of Revenue & Customs Prosecution Office) v R and Lloyds Bank Plc, the bank and R were found in contempt of court. This was when they agreed to transfer money out of an account identified in a freezing order into another, albeit interest bearing, account with the bank, without informing or obtaining the consent of the court or the applicant.

The court held that freezing orders identify the type of transactions which are to be restrained and the expression "dealing with" which is included in such orders is designed to catch any other activity in relation to frozen assets which has not otherwise been expressly identified.

There had manifestly been a 'dealing with' here. The particular bank account had been specified in the order for a purpose and the bank's decision to change that account without consent of the court or applicant had been a deliberate act and a clear breach of the order. As such the bank took upon itself the risk of interfering with justice and was in contempt of court although there had been no loss suffered. Since the applicant had in fact profited in this instance, as there was more money in the account against which to enforce a confiscation order, the court declined to make any order for costs against the bank.

Things to consider

A stark warning for banks - freezing orders are meant to be complied with to the letter. If there is to be any variation of the order, the consent of the applicant and /or the court should be obtained beforehand. Failure to do so can lead to contempt of court and if justice is interfered with by, for example, the restrained assets then being paid away, the consequences can be financially severe.