Government’s anti-fraud plans unveiled

Attorney General Lord Goldsmith yesterday (Thursday 15 March) unveiled a raft of initiatives designed to combat fraud, including a review of how the offence is dealt with in the courts.

The review will examine the potential benefits of a financial courts jurisdiction equipped with specialist judges so that all aspects of fraud proceedings can be dealt with under one roof.

Goldsmith also said that the Government is to launch a study of plea negotiation to design ways to encourage early guilty pleas.

Goldsmith commented: “Fraud contributes nothing, and costs a fortune. We cannot eliminate fraud altogether but working together with the police, the wider public sector and private industry, I am confident we can make a difference.”

Speaking at a conference at HM Treasury in London, the Attorney General was detailing the Government’s response to the wide-ranging Fraud Review published in July 2006 and the subsequent three-month consultation.

Other measures detailed include setting up the National Fraud Strategic Authority to co-ordinate fraud prevention; designing a National Fraud Reporting Centre to gather intelligence; and providing a combined service for public, government and business fraud victims.

The Government also plans to extend the remit of the City of London police, presently the lead force for fraud in the South-East, to take the lead on fraud nationally.

The Fraud Act, which came into force in January, introduced a statutory offence of fraud for the first time, giving greater clarity to investigators and prosecutors.

The Fraud (Trials Without a Jury) Bill, which promotes non-jury trials in serious and complex fraud cases, is presently before Parliament.