Parliament & Politics: pounds 33m court payouts are left unclaimed

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The Independent Online
A TOTAL of pounds 33m, representing the winnings from thousands of courtroom battles dating back to the 18th century, remains unclaimed in court accounts. And in a highly critical report, the National Audit Office (NAO) warned that the financial management of the money has been so woeful that the identity of thousands of owners of assets totalling pounds 10m was unknown.

By law, these funds, which were originally paid into court to cover legal costs, must be held by the state in perpetuity. The NAO noted that in an "index" of 10,000 pages of 73,000 accounts, many of the entries were "meaningless".

It found that pounds 10m of the pounds 33m, held by the Court Funds Office, has not been allocated an owner. The state of the ledger meant that there was a risk of double payments paid out on the same account.

Yesterday, the NAO refused to approve the accounts for the second year running.

David Davis MP, chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, said: "It was a serious failure that the Courts Fund Office does not know the ownership of some pounds 10m of assets in their unclaimed balances accounts."