The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has launched its first ever comprehensive strategy to combat economic crime. This announcement is intended to address the growing and evolving nature of economic crime in the UK, the scale of which is estimated at over £100bn each year.
The agency has additionally outlined its commitment to support the creation of a dedicated economic crime court. Alongside the new court, it will also champion greater use of virtual hearings, as well as “Nightingale courts” for fraud cases in order to reduce the backlog arising from the Covid-19 pandemic.
The economic crime strategy provides a high-level vision of the CPS’ key goals through 2025. Key aims of the strategy, focused on tackling economic crime, include:
- providing CPS staff with the skills and tools to prosecute complex cases;
- utilising digital tools for case management, preparation and presentation in cases;
- sharing CPS operational insights with partners to improve the UK’s response to economic crime;
- ensuring casework delivers improved justice outcomes in a timely manner; and
- putting victims and witnesses at the heart of every case.
The announcement also considers the increasing impact of cyber-fraud, estimating that 86% of all reported fraud is cyber-enabled. To tackle this challenge, the CPS aims to overhaul its own IT infrastructure and explore the use of artificial intelligence in disclosure.
The CPS prosecuted 10,000 economic crime cases in the past financial year, and Tuesday’s announcement makes it clear that this number is likely to increase. It is notable that the announcement follows the first criminal proceedings launched by the Financial Conduct Authority in respect of offences under the Money Laundering Regulations 2007, indicating that the prosecution of economic crime is fast-becoming one of the major enforcement objectives of public bodies.
Max Hill QC, Director of Public Prosecutions said: “The impact of economic crime on victims can be devastating, ranging from vulnerable people being exploited and left with unaffordable personal losses to the negative impact on the viability of businesses, all of which leads to significant losses to taxpayers. “This is a serious and growing area of criminality, which is why we have developed a focused plan to help combat it, providing more resources for specialist economic crime prosecutors, working closer with the police to build strong cases from the outset and giving victims confidence to come forward.”