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The Crown Prosecution Service’s Economic Crime Strategy Should Concentrate on ‘Simple’ Not ‘Complex’ to Help Victims of Crime4th May 2021 Business Crime
On 30 March 2021 the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) published its Economic Crime Strategy (ECS), setting out a ‘high-level vision’ of where it wants to be by 2025. But the ECS is so high level that its aims border on the obvious for anyone who has ever been a victim of so-called economic crime. Frauds have not really become more complex (complex fraud has always existed), although the variety and prevalence has increased. Instead of up-skilling to “prosecute increasingly complex” cases, the CPS should concentrate on the simple cases if it really wants to help victims of crime.
A fraud is simply the act of dishonestly gaining an advantage over another person. If someone says or writes something which is untrue, and which they know to be untrue, and their intention is to gain something or cause loss to another person, it is fraud. Anyone who has ever been the victim of fraud knows it instinctively, and it is therefore all the more frustrating that so many cases are turned away by the police because they are ‘civil matters’. Fraud is a civil matter but it is also a criminal matter. Action Fraud – the very service through which victims are encouraged to report this kind of crime – has exacerbated the problem by reducing the reporting process down to form filling and extinguishing the human element.
In one case JMW represents a businessman who runs a successful nationwide retail chain. Whilst on holiday he met someone who said he was the manager of an investment fund in the UK. They became friends. Our client was persuaded to invest a large part of his personal fortune into the investment fund. He was told that his investment would not mature for three or four years. No contracts or agreements were signed as our client was happy to work on trust with his new friend. Four years elapsed and our client asked to liquidate his investment, which had reportedly tripled in value. He was then met with excuse after excuse as to why this could not happen yet, including vague threats that our client had inadvertently committed a tax offence and should just walk away from the investment. Our client became suspicious that he was the victim of a scam. The matter was reported to the police through Action Fraud but he was told that it was a civil matter and that he would not be able to prove the essential elements of fraud.
JMW was recommended to assess the case. We instructed an independent investigator and an expert barrister to assist us with gathering evidence and reviewing whether a crime had been committed. We advised our client that he has been the victim of fraud and a successful application to begin a criminal case has been made. Although the crime committed against our client was very serious, it was not complex. It did however need the confidence and resources of a private prosecution team to take action where the police would not.
The JMW private prosecution team is handling several cases dismissed by the police without investigation as ‘civil matters’.
Lee Adams is a Partner in JMW, Head of the London office and Head of the Business Crime and Regulation team in London.