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Prosecutions for white collar crime continue to fall

A lack of resources for police and prosecutors and the international focus of regulators could be contributing to the falling number of prosecutions for white collar crime in England and Wales, according to international law firm Pinsent Masons.12 Jun 2018

Data obtained by Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, has revealed that there were 7,786 white collar crime prosecutions in 2017, down from 8,304 the year before. The reduction continues a general trend seen since 2011 when the number of white collar prosecutions was 31% higher at 11,261.

According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, overall police budgets fell by 14% between 2010/11 and 2014/15, while the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said in 2016 that its budget had been cut by 25% since 2010.

In addition, both the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and Serious Fraud Office (SFO) have been concentrating their resources on large and complex corporate criminal cases in recent times.

The fall in white collar crime prosecutions appears to be linked to both factors, Pinsent Masons said.

Tom Stocker, a specialist in corporate crime law at Pinsent Masons said: "The falling number of prosecutions for the growing number of frauds highlights increasing concerns that fraud and financial crime against individuals is suffering relatively low and ineffective enforcement."

"Our experience is that the SFO is targeting large companies. While that leads to significant fines and good publicity for the SFO, the government needs to consider whether enough is being done to look after vulnerable individuals who are the victims of now commonplace but sophisticated scams. If agencies combating white collar crime are routinely under-resourced, and the SFO and FCA focus mainly on the major cross-border and corporate cases, more routine fraud and cyber crime will continue to slip through the net. The police and CPS need adequate funding to carry out what can be complex investigations into this type of crime," he said.

Stocker said the police needs more money to effectively tackle crime.

Stocker said: "Victims of fraud are now expected to report directly to Action Fraud rather than to the local police station. It has become a triage system which pretends that matters are being dealt with when, in fact, most frauds are not being investigated."

"Getting the police to engage quickly and effectively in this area of criminality is becoming increasingly difficult. Tackling lower value frauds does not seem to be a priority for the police. This is a matter for the government to address both from a resource and public policy perspective," he said.