Chair: Martin Gill

Tim Harvey – Global Head of Chapter Development, ACFE UK Chapter
David Clarke – Chair of the Fraud Advisory Panel
Dr Janice Goldstraw-White – Researcher at Perpetuity Research

Key points

Janice Goldstraw-White notes that in the UK fraud is now widely
acknowledged as the most common crime accounting for approximately 39%
of all recorded crimes, costing up to £200 billion each year and with far
reaching impacts in terms of lost businesses and jobs, lost government
revenue through taxes that go towards funding public sector services, and
psychological impact in that around a third of victims of fraud say they have
suffered a significant emotional or psychological impact as a result. Neglect is
reflected in the last national strategy for tackling fraud being published in 2011
by an agency that no longer exists. Janice reports that prosecutions for these
offences are abysmally low, the Fraud Advisory Panel has suggested that
only 1 in 500 of reported cases get to court and prosecution rates and those
who go to jail are even lower. Much lower than for other criminal offences.
Fraud investigations also take much longer than most other criminal
investigations, with the average length of time from reporting to charging of
over 500 days, compared to just 50 days for theft offences. An IPSOS MORI
poll in 2017 showed that when the public were asked about which offence
types should be among the top three priorities for policing, 61 per cent said
violent crime, 54 per cent said terrorism/extremism and 49 per cent said rape
and other sexual offences. Only four per cent mentioned fraud – a lower
priority for the public than online abuse and drug offences. Given this, Janice
argues, it is not surprising that politicians and the police do not prioritise fraud.

Tim Harvey notes that year on year fraud offending trends show a growing
increase. In many ways this is progress as historically recording was
complicated by many offences not getting as far as the police. Moreover,
those that were prosecuted were doe so under different laws that did not
make them so easily identifiable as fraud (they were commonly recorded as
thefts). Things got getter when the National Fraud Authority started to record
offences and as they become more visible, somewhat symptomatically, the
NFA was abolished! Tim calls for a greater focus, the consequences for
victims are serious, some businesses went bankrupt, some people committed
suicide (as is evidenced in the Madoff case). He notes the difficulty of
prosecutions, they take a long time and engaging juries is always a problem.
The police are not sufficiently skilled and he highlights the merits of a national
specialist unit, which he once proposed but it fell on deaf ears. There is a
need for more awareness, but a key problem is that it is seen as too big a nut
to crack; that is in part why it is not a priority.

David Clarke reminds us of the stark link between economic offences and
prior national financial crises. Despite this, there have been few prosecutions,
except in Iceland and there has never been a commitment to ensuring that the
problems are fixed, as he argues, it is unsurprising then the public don’t
appear to care. There is a disconnect, business and the public don’t see the
problem, despite it being serious and despite the reality that honest people
and business pick up the huge bill. While he thinks that the police generally do
a good job, this is not the sort problem that the police can arrest their way out
of. David calls for (amongst other things): a focus on professional enablers;
more and better sharing of data; the private sector taking responsibility for
creating the problem often via a lack of due diligence (assessing loans is not
the police job); the need for private funding of public policing units; more
support for SMEs; and the need for a Royal Commission. For David the issue
is not too big, it just needs a different approach and urgently.

This webinar reminds us of the massive disconnect between the reality of
fraud as experienced by victims and the official responses. It seems that
response systems are only slowly catching up. The panellists provided some
points to focus on, although however laudable they are there is still a sense
that many will be undermined by a lack of political will to generate change.

Martin Gill
21st October 2021

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