pounds 33m winnings from court cases 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 management of the money has been so woeful that the identity of thousands of owners of assets totalling pounds 10m was unknown.

The funds include the spoils of modern litigation, as well as centuries old treasures, all of which is waiting to be claimed by the rightful litigants.

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 paid to cover legal costs and held by the Court Funds Office, had not been allocated an owner while 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.

The report will cause further embarrassment for the Public Trust Office, whose staff oversee the accounts. Earlier this year the PTO was criticised by the NAO and the Public Accounts Committee of the House of Commons for the way it handled the financial affairs of the mentally incapacitated.