Fraud – is it acceptable for private companies to fund police ?

Public/private partnership on fraud – a dangerous precedent or practical necessity ?

Fraud of all kinds is becoming an increasing issue in our society and comes with the double whammy of cuts in police resources. Is it better in these circumstances for cash rich companies to resource the police to achieve a faster more effective solution to serious fraud ? A recent disclosure shows this has already happened but the practice is clearly highly controversial.

It appears that Virgin media paid cash to the police to help resolve a major fraud issue affecting Virgin and the deal, agreed in a formal contract with the Met Police, also had a success element, almost akin to a no win no fee personal injury type arrangement. The facts of this unusual arrangement, in summary, are :-

  • It is possible for police to charge private organisation’s fees under the 1996 Police Act, but this usually relates to the costs of policing events such as concerts or football matches
  • The problem Virgin had was  major international fraud issue which was estimated as losing the company nearly £150 million annually
  • Under the commercial arrangement reached, some 30 officers were utilized to work in conjunction with a similar number of internal investigators working for Virgin Media.
  • It is understood that police were only brought in when there was sufficient evidence to move to an action phase of investigation
  • Controversially the contract provided that Virgin would pay the police 25% of any monies recovered from the fraudsters.
  • The arrangement has been heavily criticized. Senior members of the Metropolitan Police Authority state they were completely unaware of the deal agreed.

Clearly, there are compelling reasons why the type of arrangement reached in this case makes a lot of sense, but do the dangers of private companies funding the police outweigh the potential benefits ? What do you think ?

Soundbites or substance ?

Soundbites or substance ?

Every month of every year, with almost every Government we can remember, there is a new plan about how to deal with criminal justice, penalizing criminal behavior and so … “tough  on crime, tough on the causes of crime” is the ever present mantra. What a load of nonsense.

We all know that keeping someone in prison costs an extraordinary amount of money, about £20k a year for each in inmate. This is a lot of money and it of course makes sense on a number of levels to get prisoners to work, to pay at least a modicum of the expense of keeping them in prison, to get some kind of payback for crime, and to provide skills which may reduce the possibility of  reoffending. All good, but saying it is one thing, implementing it is another. Call us cynical, but we’ve heard it all before.

So, does this sound familiar ? …..

  • inmates to working up to 40 hours a week
  • 50% of prisoners reoffend within a year of release

The above are the new proposals from the Justice Secretary – let’s see what the position is in the next year or two.

Double jeopardy

In the wake of the Stephen Lawrence case convictions, this article explores ‘double jeopardy’.

Double jeopardy means that you can not be tried twice for the same offence. There are good reasons for this, some of which are listed below:

It may be considered manifestly unfair to the alleged victim who is presumed innocent until proven guilty, the test usually being beyond all reasonable doubt;

It may be considered an abuse of process to re-consider or introduce new evidence, when Authoritative or Regulatory bodies should, frankly, have got their act together, and their evidence in place with one proverbial bite at the cherry being the Trial;

It may be considered an abuse of administration of justice where high costs are spent, and Court time has been taken up. Moreover the victim and the victim’s family should expect the Prosecution to have all evidence in place;

Natural Laws of Justice ought to apply. Justice must be seen to be done. Certainty and clarity should be what in Law we strive for. Without it, we have potential despair, and possible chaos looming;

A fair trial may be impossible given previous publicity, and length of time since the first offence;

The Criminal Justice Act 2003 (‘the 2003 Act’), changed the double jeopardy rule.

Section 75 of the 2003 Act allowed for a retrial following the Defendant’s acquittal, which includes the following offences:

  • Murder and Attempted Murder;
  • Manslaughter;
  • Kidnapping;
  • Arson, endangering life or property

The Prosecution must in the first instance apply to the Court of Appeal seeking an Order quashing acquittal of the Defendant, and providing for the Defendant to be retried for that particular offence.

The Director of Public Prosecutions must consent to such an application.

There are 2 tests to be met in order to prosecute a defendant for a second time:

There must be ‘new and compelling’ evidence: The evidential test, Section 78 of the 2003 Act. That new evidence should not have been adduced when the Defendant was acquitted, and that evidence must be reliable, substantial, and highly probative against the Defendant.

The second test relates to the interests of justice, which is set out at Section 79 of the 2003 Act. The Court of Appeal has to consider a number of matters including, but not limited to:

  • The nature and seriousness of the offence;
  • The heinousness of the alleged crime committed;
  • Whether a fair trial is likely;
  • The length of time passed since the offence was allegedly committed;
  • Whether new evidence could have been adduced at the initial Trial;
  • Whether the Police or the Prosecution failed to act with due diligence or expedition;

As we well know, the quality, methods, and procedure of obtaining evidence, and investigating objects and articles forensically, has significantly evolved and developed particularly since the Lawrence case.

The writer believes that exceptions to the rule of double-jeopardy is necessary, but it has to be weighed carefully against the rights of an acquitted Defendant as against the seriousness of the crime and impact to the victim and their family.

The fact that in the Stephen Lawrence case those who have since been convicted, gloated and boasted generally about committing racist crimes, eased the consciousness of right-thinking society to vilify them. I wonder if such evidence had not been adduced, whether polite society would have been so amenable to convictions based on forensic evidence found, which had not been previously discovered because forensics had yet to evolve, or alternatively they were simply missed, rather than evidence over the years may have become contaminated.

No doubt there will be an Appeal which will hopefully further clarify the exceptions to double-jeopardy.

David Rosen is a Solicitor-Advocate, Partner and head of Litigation at Darlingtons Solicitors, and a visiting associate Professor of Law at Brunel University.

More than 900 serving police officers and community-support officers have a criminal record, official figures show.

Forces across England and Wales employ police officers with convictions including burglary, causing death by careless driving, robbery, supplying drugs, domestic violence, forgery and perverting the course of justice. Those with criminal records include senior officers, among them two Detective Chief Inspectors and one Chief Inspector working for the Metropolitan Police.

At least 944 officers and police community-support officers (PCSOs) have a conviction, according to figures released by 33 of the 43 forces in England and Wales in response to requests under the Freedom of Information Act.

Many forces could not provide details of criminal records dating from before their staff joined, meaning the true figure will be significantly higher.

The Metropolitan Police, Britain’s largest force, came out on top with 356 officers and 41 PCSOs with convictions. It was followed by Kent Police (49) and Devon and Cornwall Police (44). The criminal records include: a PC convicted of burglary as a teenager who is now with Devon and Cornwall Police; an inspector convicted of dangerous driving and another inspector convicted of possessing and supplying cannabis at Essex Police; five officers convicted of assault and one convicted of causing death by careless driving at Merseyside Police.

Most of the convictions are for traffic offences such as speeding and drink-driving, but the records also include an officer in South Yorkshire was convicted of fishing without a licence. Home Office guidelines issued in 2003 say police officers should have “proven integrity” because they are vulnerable to pressure from criminals to reveal information. The guidance says forces should reject potential recruits with convictions for serious offences – including causing bodily harm, burglary, dangerous driving and supplying drugs – unless there are “exceptionally compelling circumstances”.