Account Freezing Order

What is an account freezing order (AFO)?

An AFO is an order granted by the Magistrates Court to freeze a bank account in the UK. This order is usually applied for by an enforcement officer, such as the police, if they have suspicion that the monies on account are part proceeds of criminal activities or intended for illegal purpose. The most common event is a large sum of monies transferred into a bank account or multiple deposits of cash into a bank account in a short period of time.

A common case

In a common scenario, you will first notice that you suddenly have no access to your bank account via mobile banking or online banking, or your balance in your account becomes zero. When you call the bank they may tell you that they are unable to deal with this or provide any information.

Shortly after, you either receive an AFO from the police or a notice of application for AFO from the court.

The threshold for the initial AFO application is quite low and the court is likely to grant it for an initial period of time.

Period of AFO

Once the AFO is granted, it would be subject to a period of time for the police to undertake the investigation as well as for you to provide an explanation and all evidence. The period of an AFO varies depends on the complexity of the case. The most common AFO lasts 6 months. If 6 months is not enough for you to the provide evidence or for the police to conduct the investigation, it could be extended up to 2 years.

Variation of an AFO

In the case that all monies that you could utilise are frozen in that bank account or you would need them for some urgent matter, you are entitled to make an application to the court to vary the AFO. You will need to demonstrate your reasonable living expenses and / or the urgency of the matter. You can also make application to pay your legal expenses from the frozen money.


As mentioned above, during the investigation the police will ask you for an interview to answer questions they have or provide a written explanation of your funds. It is usually advisable to seek independent legal advice at this point before responding to the police. The main aspect is to give proper explanation for the funds in your bank account. For example, if some monies are your salary, you may need to provide your employment contract/pay slip or a confirmation from your employer if necessary to show that these monies are your rightful gain.

Possible results

If the police are satisfied with the clean source of funds, they will make another application to the court to set aside the initial AFO. Once the court approves that the police will inform the bank to unfreeze the account and release the monies to you.

It is also possible that, after the investigation, the police may decide to apply for the relevant amount or all of them to be forfeited, if they think those funds are the proceeds of crime. They will serve you a notice and you could raise an objection within a certain time period. If objected, you will need to make an application to set aside such forfeiture, the case will then proceed to the court for the judge to decide whether the forfeiture should be granted. You can seek legal advice for further details.

It is also open to you to apply to discharge the AFO if there are sufficient grounds

Seek legal advice

It is important to seek legal advice as soon as possible once you receive an AFO. Chan Neill Solicitors can provide expert guidance on the procedure and the best approach for your case. By assessing the validity of the AFO and carefully reviewing the evidence and circumstance surrounding the case, we can offer a variety of tactics to ensure the most favourable outcome for your case.