The attorney general has revealed that the government is considering changing the evidential basis for prosecuting white collar crime.
Jeremy Wright QC MP told the Gazette there is concern that too many directors are avoiding punishment even when their companies have broken the law.
Although there is no timescale for reform, Wright said ministers are ready to amend legislation to better facilitate prosecutions against white collar transgressors.
‘You know something has gone wrong, but you can’t find a clear enough connection between the directing mind and what has happened,’ he said. ‘We can consider doing something about it in white collar crime [to] ensure we can catch this kind of criminal activity without having difficulties in a large organisation of who signed off on what.’
Wright (pictured) defended the planned use of deferred prosecutions for economic crime and said there is ‘no doubt’ they will be used when the right case comes along. ‘If you as a corporation detect something has gone wrong [and] you’re prepared to offer full co-operation, this is a good way of making sure we have another option available,’ he said.
Wright also revealed that ministers are considering increasing court charges to foreign litigants using English courts. He said the intention is not to ‘scare off’ business, but that international litigants should expect to pay prices that befit a ‘Rolls-Royce legal system’.
The Law Society and others have warned that higher fees could make London a less attractive jurisdiction internationally.
Wright, who spent nine years at the bar as a criminal barrister but took silk only after being appointed attorney general last summer, admitted some have questioned whether he has the required experience for the role.
‘All I would say to people is, I understand the concern but judge me by what I do,’ said Wright. ‘I don’t think there has ever been an attorney general who has arrived in post in the hundreds of years of its history who has known everything or had the full range of legal knowledge required.’
On the Conservative Party’s proposal to repeal the Human Rights Act, he insisted that public, political and ‘large quarters’ of legal opinion agreed that the European Convention on Human Rights had been extended beyond its original remit.
‘We will ask for a new settlement which says the judgments of the [Strasbourg] court should be much more advisory. If we succeed, that will be a new settlement. If not, we have a straight choice between the status quo and not accepting it – that is a perfectly legally sustainable position.’