One of the country’s most wanted alleged fraudsters impersonated a judge to persuade his victim to send him money, a police force has claimed. City of London Police last week released details of a number of individuals sought for allegedly stealing more than £1m in total from the public.
Among them is 48-year-old Daniel Sheridan, from Wolverhampton, who is wanted in connection with four fraud and money laundering offences.
The police said one of these offences progressed in such a sophisticated way that it included the use of multiple callers, then calls from a purported court and eventually a conference call where the fraudster claimed to be a judge, The impersonator threatened his victim with imprisonment for contempt of court if transfers were not made, and subsequently around £79,000 was moved to Sheridan’s bank account.
News of the deception comes as HM Courts and Tribunals Service prepares to make much greater use of video hearings and judges appearing to litigants via a computer screen.
The Gazette has been told by a member of the bench that judges are still in the dark about what rules will govern video conferences with unrepresented people, and what guidance litigants in person will be given about their remote exchanges with the judiciary. The likelihood is clearly that conference calls will become a routine part of the judicial system, as the government closes more courts and leaves people with either a longer journey to the nearest alternative building or dealing with the case at home.
Last week, outgoing president of the Family Division Sir James Munby said the public should be involved in making the choice between in-person hearings and remote video conferencing. ’You have a simple choice, you can either make this journey or you can sit in your kitchen and talk to the judge on Skype,’ he said. ’I do not know what the answer is. One thing that worries me is we have not asked people what the answer should be.’