Brian Sims

CPS launches ambitious strategy designed to combat economic crime

THE FIRST-ever Economic Crime Strategy introduced by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) sets out an ambitious plan put together to combat offences estimated to cost the UK’s economy billions of pounds every year.

The Economic Crime Strategy was launched at a round table meeting involving Government department representatives, police and criminal justice partners and highlights that fraud is now one of the most common crime types in England and Wales. Indeed, the scale of the problem is growing. Some £479 million was lost in 2020 to scams where people were tricked into making bank transfers to fraudsters. That’s according to data from UK Finance. Over the past financial year, the CPS has itself prosecuted 10,000 economic crime cases.

Economic crime is also evolving. 86% of reported fraud is now estimated to be cyber-enabled, fuelled by advances in technology. In the last year, cyber criminals have sought to exploit the COVID-19 pandemic. Huge increases in the number of people working remotely mean that significantly more individuals will be vulnerable to computer service fraud. Opportunistic fraudsters have also tried to exploit the Government’s bounce back loan scheme by posing as businesses in order to obtain money.

With 800,000 people per annum now falling victim to economic crime, the CPS will focus on how prosecutors can better help and support them, including those who are most vulnerable.

Max Hill QC, Director of Public Prosecutions, stated: “The impact of economic crime on victims can be devastating, ranging from vulnerable people being exploited and left with unaffordable personal losses through to the negative impact on the viability of businesses, all of which leads to significant losses to taxpayers. This is a serious and growing area of criminality, which is precisely why we’ve developed a focused plan to help combat it. We’re providing more resources for specialist economic crime prosecutors, working closer with the police to build strong cases from the outset and giving victims the confidence to come forward.”

Range of commitments

The Economic Crime Strategy includes a range of commitments. The CPS is:

*reviewing its structures and capabilities to ensure that it harbours the right resources in the right place

*supporting more virtual hearings for economic crime cases to help reduce the backlog and give victims and witnesses more efficient access to justice

*recovering the proceeds of crime, depriving criminals of their ill-gotten gains and seeking compensation for victims where possible

*harnessing the opportunities presented by technology to support effective economic crime prosecutions, while at the same time balancing the rights of a fair trial with the right to privacy

*supporting the creation of the first-ever Economic Crime Court and the use of more Nightingale courts for fraud-centric cases

Graeme Biggar, director general of the National Economic Crime Centre, commented: “Our understanding of the scale and impact of economic crime has increased significantly over the last few years and shown that we need a much greater focus on this corrosive threat. These are often complicated crimes that require specialist knowledge and experience. I welcome this approach by the CPS and its commitment to deliver justice for the victims of economic crime.”

The CPS also runs a unit dedicated to asset recovery. In 2019-2020, upwards of  £100 million was taken from criminals’ ill-gotten gains.

*Read the CPS Economic Crime Strategy in full

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