Pinstripe criminals should be treated more like benefit fraudsters, says Attorney General

The Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith QC called for a more “even-handed approach” to City frauds, in a recent speech that criticised the disparity in sentencing between ‘white-collar’ criminals and ‘blue-collar’ benefit fraudsters.
“It is notable how often defendants receive non-custodial or suspended sentences despite committing serious economic crimes,” claimed Lord Goldsmith before an audience of lawyers and law enforcement agents at a conference on economic crime. He talked of his own power to refer sentences in serious fraud cases to the Court of Appeal, if he considered the Crown Court sentence “unduly lenient”. In particular, he cited the recent case of Stephen Hinchcliffe, the former chairman of the Facia retail group, where following a successful prosecution by the Serious Fraud Office, the offender was given a 15-month suspended sentence for conspiracy to defraud approximately £1.75m. The case was referred by the Attorney General to the appeal judges who imposed an immediate prison sentence in place of the suspended sentence passed at trial.
“Here, too, there is an element of social justice,” Lord Goldsmith said. “It would not be justified, in my view, for example, to treat a white-collar fraudster who defrauds a company or individuals more leniently than a blue-collar one who makes a fraudulent benefit claim.
“Between 1997 and 2002, the number of prosecutions for benefit fraud by our national agency rose from under 12,000 to nearly 27,000. We need to match this approach in white-collar crime. Justice must be even-handed.”