Decline in the number of prosecutions as reports of white-collar crime rise
Figures provided by the Ministry of Justice, pursuant to a freedom of information request, display a decline in the number of white-collar crimes prosecuted in England and Wales in 2016. There was, however, in the same year, a spike in the number of white-collar crimes reported, sparking questions over whether police forces and the Serious Fraud Office (‘SFO’) are adequately funded to effectively investigate and prosecute these offences.
The Ministry of Justice data, obtained by Pinsent Masons, details that 8,304 prosecutions were brought in 2016, down from 9,489 in the previous year. This includes offences of; corruption, bribery, insider dealing, computer fraud and false accounting. Recent, high profile examples are the prosecutions of Rolls-Royce (for more information click here) and Tesco (for more information click here). The decline has been a continuing trend since 2011 where there were around 11,200 prosecutions for white-collar offences.
The concern around these figures arises as, contrary to the decline in prosecutions, there has been a significant increase in the number of reported crimes made to the police in this sector. Statistics from 2016 show that there were in excess of 641,500 reports made compared to on 143,000 in 2011. This conforms with the overall increase, noted by the Crime Survey of England and Wales, in the number of crimes reported in 2016.
Commentators have raised questions over whether enforcement bodies such as the police in England and Wales (who are experiencing their lowest numbers in over thirty years according to Home Office figures) and the SFO are adequately funded to effectively combat and prosecute white-collar crime. The investigations leading to prosecution are often lengthy, arduous and complex and the SFO has seen its funding continuously slashed since 2008 from £52million to £35.7million. Whilst the Conservatives pledged to merge the SFO with the National Crime Agency, no such proposal was apparent in the Queen’s Speech and therefore the future of the body remains uncertain.
Brett Wilson LLP solicitors are experienced in advising and representing those under investigation or being prosecuted for white-collar crimes. Click here to see how we can assist you.
Articles are intended as an introduction to the topic and do not constitute legal advice.