POLICE forces in the region will receive a share of millions of pounds after cash and assets stripped from criminals reached a record high.

The Home Office announced this week that £13m from the £84m recovered will be divided among forces throughout the UK.

Previously, all the money seized went to the Treasury, but now a portion will be given to chief constables to fight crime in their areas.

Sums awarded to each force will vary according to the amount they seized, from just over £4m for the Metropolitan Police, to less than £9,000 for the Warwickshire force.

In this region, Northumbria will receive £138,645, Durham can expect £72,764, Cleveland is in line for £35,000 and North Yorkshire will receive £31,258.

A Cleveland Police spokesman said: "This legislation does have a major impact and we are fully committed to it.

"Part of our fight against crime is to hit the criminals where it hurts, especially in their pockets and, as such, we are trialling a financial investigation unit.

"That got under way this year and we are looking to improve our results next year."

Detective Inspector Phil Butler, of the Northumbria Police economic crime unit, said: "We are making significant inroads and are now seizing 13 times more than we were in 2002.

"There is no doubt this legislation provides significant benefits and is having a positive impact on communities."

Home Office Minister Paul Goggins said: "This achievement sends a clear message to criminals - crime does not pay and profiting from crime will not be tolerated."

A North Yorkshire Police spokesman said: "Criminal assets recovery is an important tool in the fight against crime. Our recent successes include the confiscation of more than £100,000 from a charity fraudster targeting supermarket customers and, to date, around £200,000 of confiscation orders have been obtained."

However, the seizure powers, introduced under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002, have been criticised this week by a judge and a politician.

Judge Michael Taylor attacked the cost of pursuing three people who had £200 and £400-worth of gift vouchers confiscated when they were stopped by police for theft.

Speaking at Teeside Crown Court, he said: "I don't disagree with it when you have real villains with real money, but when you are dealing with a sum like £1,000, isn't it a bit over the top?"

Middlesbrough MP Sir Stuart Bell plans to call on the Attorney General to act after a drugs baron who earned thousands from his illegal trade was ordered to hand over only 29p because he was serving a six-and-a-half-year prison sentence and apparently had no money.