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G4S 999 call handlers suspended after allegations they made hundreds of ‘test calls’ to meet targets

Our legal and political climate is resplendent with fine talk about the state cracking down on organised fraud and tax evasion, on rooting out international corruption, and even making big companies responsible for the actions of their employees.

Just this month, it was confirmed that the Ministry of Justice is consulting on proposals to extending the ‘failing to prevent’ criminal offence beyond bribery and tax evasion to include other economic crimes. Big talk indeed, but is it always necessary to pass new laws?

In terms of fraud offences, it has long been the case that a conspiracy to defraud can include a wide range of members in the same scheme, even where each member played a different role, had a different level of knowledge, and participated at different stages.

At the same time as our brave law enforcers are cracking down on all this, we are also outsourcing more and more state functions. Sometimes the position is reached where a state body is sold off, only to later be investigated by the state. The irony of that is magnified when the outsourced body being investigated actually works for the investigators, e.g. the police force.

Just this week, it was revealed that five G4S staff members working at the Lincolnshire 999 call centre are being investigated for making over one thousand ‘test’ 999 calls, allegedly in order to boost the centre’s all-important response times. The scheme was revealed by a whistleblower in January.

G4S have run the Lincolnshire call centre since 2012 following the award of a 10 year contract worth £200 million. The contract is believed to contain penalty clauses for failing to hit performance targets.

These extra ‘test calls’ were all made in the final three months of 2015, reportedly making the monthly test call average rise from 37 up to 241. These ‘test calls’ were then answered more quickly than usual (this is possible when you are expecting a pretend emergency), which then happened to push G4S just over their 92% target of answering within 10 seconds. Without these calls, G4S would have missed that target and suffered a financial penalty. So, either this happy outcome was a massive coincidence, or these were indeed five well-informed and commercially-astute employees.

John Shaw, a Director of G4S said: “At no stage did their actions put the public or police colleagues at risk.” One assumes that Mr Shaw personally checked that claim with every person trying to call 999 at the same time as these unnecessary test calls. The Crown Prosecution Service added that there is no evidence of criminal activity at this stage - in this particular case, showing an impressive dedication to the burden of proof. It is understood that disciplinary proceedings have been brought against the individuals concerned.

In a general sense, time will tell whether all this talk of cracking down on economic crime was just one more hoax call.



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Articles are intended as an introduction to the topic and do not constitute legal advice.