Author: Niall Hearty
20 April 2021
2 min read
Niall Hearty of Rahman Ravelli gives an overview of the Crown Prosecution Service’s plan to tackle economic crime.
The first Economic Crime Strategy produced by the Crown Prosecution Service details its plans for combatting fraud and other economic crime between now and 2025.
Announced by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) on 30 March 2021, it has been created with the aim of covering offences including bribery and corruption, sanctions violations, money laundering and terrorist financing, as well as public and private sector fraud.
The strategy involves the CPS assessing the structures currently in place and, where necessary, reallocating resources to maximise effectiveness.
It is a strategy that aims to tackle the case backlog caused by the coronavirus pandemic. A reliance on virtual hearings and greater use of Nightingale courts for fraud cases are part of the attempt to achieve this. The CPS is supporting the creation of an economic crime court in London. This court, which is scheduled to open in 2026, will be used for fraud, cybercrime and other economic crime cases, and civil fraud cases.
The CPS has identified the recovery of the proceeds of crime and, where it is possible, the compensation of victims as priorities that are in need of being refocused on. Its emphasis on digital activity has seen it looking to make greater use of data when it comes to planning. The CPS has also stated its aim of using AI in relation to disclosure. As the CPS has been criticised over disclosure previously, it remains to be seen if greater use of AI will ensure it (and the police) are better equipped to meet their obligations to defence teams in current and future cases.
While the Strategy is not revolutionary – as it covers areas that have previously been identified as requiring attention – it does show the CPS is making its position clear; with economic crime set to be a major part of its caseload between now and 2025.
What is notable, however, is that it does not detail how the CPS will achieve its objectives in tandem with the other enforcement agencies. There is no new information about how the CPS intends to work with agencies such as the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) and National Crime Agency (NCA) – or about who will take the lead in which types of cases – although there has been previous CPS guidance on this.
There can be little doubt about the CPS’s ambition. It announced the strategy, which it calls a “high-level vision’’, by saying it was looking to combat offences that cost billions a year. It also emphasised how, in the past financial year, it had prosecuted 10,000 financial crime cases.
With 800,000 people, according to the CPS, falling victim to economic crime each year, the agency is clearly aware of the scale of the challenge it faces. It now remains to be seen if the CPS can achieve its stated aim of contributing to an improvement in criminal justice outcomes in economic crime.