The Crown court heard almost double the number of fraud cases in the first half of 2021 than in the same period last year – but a drop in the value of alleged frauds suggests that complex hearings are still being delayed.

Research by Big Four firm KPMG found that 151 criminal fraud cases – each worth over £100,000 – were heard in the first six months of 2021, as courts began to recover from the pandemic. Just 180 cases were heard in the whole of 2020.

Cases relating to rogue tradesmen more than doubled in volume in the first half of 2021, and the number of cases concerning probate also grew year-on-year, from four cases totalling £2.3m to 10 cases worth over £3.3m. The study does not include online fraud.

Crown Court

The total value of alleged fraud reaching UK courts fell by 70% year-on-year

However, the total value of alleged fraud reaching UK courts fell by 70% year-on-year to £139.1m. This was also a marked decrease compared with the first half of 2019 (£319m) and the first half of 2018 (£895m).

Roy Waligora, partner and head of UK investigations at KPMG, said no ‘super-cases’ have been recorded in the data, ‘which may point to more complex cases being delayed’. In contrast, two large cases were heard in the first half of 2021 totalling over £30m.

KPMG predicted a rise in cases related to Covid-19 financial support in the near future. ‘We welcome the new fraud task force put in place by HMRC which will focus on combatting fraud within the various Covid-19 financial packages,' Waligora said.

'HMRC has stated publicly that they have already opened over 12,000 inquiries into HMRC-administered Covid-19 support scheme claims, along with a number of criminal investigations.' 

Meanwhile, the number of civil fraud cases heard in England and Wales increased by 50% last year, from 61 cases in 2019 to 94 in 2020, a study by City firm RPC and litigation analytics company Solomonic found.

RPC said the numbers are likely to have been driven up by the impact of Covid-19 on the economy, with further increases likely to follow in the coming years.