LAWYERS have managed to claw back almost £1 million of criminals’ ill-gotten gains, investing it in fighting crime in Wiltshire.

The force has seen success in the past year, hitting criminals with legal action under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

Judges order those convicted of a crime to pay back the money they made or the clothes, cars or property they bought with the proceeds. The cash is paid into a central pot, before being distributed to police forces around the country

Thanks to recent major cases, including the discovery of the UK’s largest cannabis farm near Chilmark, Wiltshire Police has enjoyed a bumper year.

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Angus Macpherson, Wiltshire police and crime commissioner, wrote on his blog: “In the past we usually got around £200,000 each year from the Proceeds of Crime Act.

“However, with the year-end accounts about to be signed off for 2018/2019, I am pleased to say that this year we have hit a bit of a jackpot and managed to secure £900,000.

"That's £700,000 extra to be spent on boosting the police ranks.

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Angus Macpherson, Wiltshire police and crime commissioner

“It's thanks to the solving of the big cases that we have managed to take a bigger slice of the criminals' 'ill-gotten gains' this year.”

Wiltshire Police detectives raided a massive cannabis farm in a former MoD nuclear bunker near Chilmark in February 2017. It was estimated the farm could produce £2m-worth of the class B drugs a year.

After three men were jailed for their part in the operation, movie memorabilia owned by the group and worth up to £1.5m was auctioned-off by the authorities under proceeds of crime rules.

Mr Macpherson said: “Money earned through illegal activities is now paying for the recruitment and training of new officers to help prevent and reduce crime in the county.

“The saying 'crime doesn't pay' is so true but it also pays out to help the police keep Wiltshire and Swindon safe.”

However, that saying does not necessarily ring true, when one looks at some recent cases.

Last month, drug dealer Anthony Simister was ordered at Swindon Crown Court to pay back just £810 under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

His dealing was estimated to have made him almost £100,000 – but when he was picked up by police only had just over £800.