Is fraud endemic in our society ?

When we think of crime, we all tend to first conjure up the image of hardcore violent offenders, but of course crime also includes economic crime as well.

there is of course a difference between violent and non-violent offences but a victim of an economic crime can have his/her/their future blighted just as much as with a violent offence. There are many instances where innocent individuals have lost their life savings due to fraud.

What is potentially particularly worrying on a society wide basis is the increasing tendency for individuals to lie or embellish the truth or to think that theft or fraud which doesn’t appear to have an individual victim is somehow ok, or no more than a white lie. However, no crime just as no action generally, comes without consequences.

Some examples of recent widespread fraud which have largely gone unpunished simply because the prevalance is so great is insurance and mortgage fraud. In the former case, there are postcodes in the UK where there appears to be an incredible tendency for there to be clusters of road traffic accidents and whiplash claims made via personal injury lawyers. The insurers know this is clear fraud but very few perpetrators are brought to book and what then happens, as is currently the case, is that insurance premiums for everybody get increased.

In the case of mortgage fraud, it is well known that in the heady days of the property boom in the first decade of this century, with the advent and popularity of self certification mortgages, literally thousands of applicants exaggerated or grossly exaggerated their earnings to obtain mortgages. We all know what the results of this have been, the credit crunch, near financial collapse of western economies and ongoing economic woe for millions.

Then there is of course fraud against the Government, and we all know that some MP’s were at it, and benefits fraud is thought to have been widespread. We then have carousel frauds and such like, let alone employee theft and fraud also being on the increase.

The irony is that econmoic crime only increases when times get tough. People resort to desperate measures when in trouble, in contrast to the sheer greed when times are good and everyone wants a piece of the action. Oh, and I forgot about the City institutions and the whole topic of insider trading, punting of billions like a game of roulette and boiler room fraud. Maybe those are topics for another day.

All in all fraud is no laughing matter and it’s worrying that on a societal level, many think it’s ok to stretch the truth (lying on cv’s is another example where it is thought the tendency to do this has increased massively).

Finally, when suspecting fraud, many now turn to solicitors or corporate investigators for help in dealing with these issues. This is particularly the case as the SFO seems to have had it’s budget due to the austerity measures. And what has caused the austerity measures in the first place !

Should prisoners work ?

Should prisoners work ?

There are many reasons why encouraging or even compelling prisoners to work makes good sense. Arguments include :-

  1. Prisoners should contribute at least something towards the cost of keeping them in prison.
  2. Some money raised by prisoners working could be used to compensate victims.
  3. Work prepares prisoners for useful and productive reintegration back into society, helps to create new skills for them and encourages self respect and discipline

The idea of prisoners working is not a new one, but prison reform is very much on the current political agenda, so the renewed debate is to be welcomed. Some useful work in this regard has been done by Policy Exchange, which is suggesting prisoners should work a full week for a minimum wage lower than the national minimum wage with a proportion of earnings paid into a victim’s fund. Their research also suggests that there is considerable public support for prisoners being compelled to work, with over 70% backing this.

What do you think ?