In June of this year the Financial Times reported that the Home Office were reviewing the bodies that are tasked with investigating white collar crime. It was recounted that the Serious Fraud Office and the National Crime Agency with others were being reviewed.
The article also made reference to the speech given by Theresa May, Secretary of State for the Home Office, at the Royal United Services Institute when she spoke on organised crime and the concerns that economic crime was not being taken seriously.
The Law Society Gazette published yesterday an article quoting Jeremy Wright QC, the Attorney General, regarding the deliberations of the government regarding the prosecution of white collar crime. The concern that was highlighted was that many company directors are circumventing prosecution whilst their companies are prosecuted. In such cases punishments are then limited to financial penalties with the Directors who have the control of the company receiving no punishment in their decisions.
There is no schedule or indeed intended comprehensive revisions to legislation it would appear that this is a matter under careful review and a problem that we can expect to see revised.
The Attorney General goes on to make reference to Deferred Prosecution Agreements and states that there will still be a place for them. Schedule 17 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013 came into force on the 24th February 2014. Under the Code of Practice, businesses face penalties rather than immediate criminal proceedings where the business fails to adhere to measures imposed to prevent further wrongdoing. Whilst criminal charges would be laid, the prosecutor would not immediately proceed with the criminal charges. The charges would be automatically suspended. Prosecutors would then consider terms and conditions which may include a financial penalty, restitution, forcing the business to give up illegally obtained profits and other measures to prevent further illegal acts. Of course, should the business fail to adhere to agreed terms and conditions, criminal charges would resume. Deferred Prosecution Agreements though only apply to organisations and not individuals. They can be used in respect of the offences of Fraud, Conspiracy to Commit Fraud, Theft, False Accounting, Forgery and Counterfeiting, Evasion of VAT, Money Laundering and other offences of economic crime, but not in respect of regulatory offences such as Health and Safety.
There has been a considerable momentum over the last few years to bring to justice those who commit fraud and white collar offences. With increased tariffs for the perpetrators it is likely that legislation will be amended to simplify and expedite the prosecution of company directors.
At Farleys we have a specialist team of criminal defence solicitors who specialise in serious crime and can provide advice and representation 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on all areas of serious crime. If you have been accused of involvement in relation to money laundering or fraud offence, or indeed serious crime in any capacity, it is vital that you speak to a criminal defence solicitor at the earliest opportunity. Early advice is often crucial. For 24 hour advice via our emergency crime line, call 01254 606050.