White collar crime prosecutions have reached a five-year low, despite a surge in reported fraud cases, research has revealed.
According to a study by Thomson Reuters, the number of white collar crime prosecutions fell by 14% last year to 6,669. This is down from almost 9,500 prosecutions in 2015, and 7,786 in 2017.
Meanwhile, the number of reported fraud and computer misuse offences continues to grow, reaching almost 700,000 in 2018/19, up from 593,000 in 2014/15.
Government reports suggest that cuts to police resources have made it difficult to investigate and prosecute white collar crime, which includes offences such as fraud, money laundering, cybercrime and insider trading. A report by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary, for example, found many police fraud teams have been reduced, with resources diverted to other crime priorities, in order to meet budgets.
Thomson Reuters added that fraud is becoming more sophisticated and increasingly involves cross-border transactions, meaning information has to be gathered from foreign authorities, making cases harder to investigate.
Charles Thomson, Baker McKenzie partner and author of Practitioner’s Guide to The Law and Regulation of Financial Crime said: ‘Budget cuts are taking their toll on police forces, who are having to downsize fraud teams whilst fraud cases continue to rise.
‘The result is that police forces may not always have capacity to investigate complex fraud cases and are more likely to focus on the investigation of other offenses, which are likely to be less resource intensive. There is an urgent need for more police funding in this area and without this, the situation will only get worse.’
Thomson added that fraud victims are increasingly choosing civil routes where ‘the timely issuance of court orders make recovery more likely’.