The prosecution of criminal fraud matters, or white-collar crimes as they are often called, is an extremely important part of the message being sent out against the fraudster. However, it is not enough just to clamp down hard on the business criminals, it is also necessary to see that the justice being given out is fair and balanced. If not there is the danger of the system weakening as a result of its failure to observe reasonable human rights which might result in the increase in fraud overall.
The reason why the UK criminal justice system is very respected around the world and often copied in whole or in part is because it has an apparently fair approach in that it suggests that everyone is innocent until proven guilty. However, in practice this is not quite the case. This is because despite the hard pressed finances of the public sector fraud regulators including the police and the Crown Prosecution Service, the funding for those accused is even harder to get.
Anybody accused of a crime, including business crime, has a right to publicly funded defence. This is intended to present a fair framework within which to hear a case. It is just as well, because in these days of money laundering prevention and criminal confiscations, the Crown is likely to freeze any potential fraudster or business criminal’s assets before the culprit even comes to trial. So if innocent, or perhaps not as guilty as is being suggested, the defendant must rely on the funding available to him to present his case in the best possible way.
In frauds and business crimes, the very nature of the offence means that a forensic accountant is often essential to achieving the proper outcome. If the complex financial indictments are not explained so that a judge and jury can fully understand them, there is the chance of an unjust verdict. Too often the fraud regulators get the bit between their teeth and make assumptions that are not always supported by the evidence. In complex matters it is sometimes easy to confuse onlookers and sometimes the prosecutors do not even understand the indictments fully themselves.
The role of a forensic accountant in these cases is important in order that the case can be unpicked and presented clearly and succinctly. Very often the fraudster is as guilty as accused, but in this case the defence team can be sure that they have covered all the bases. In other cases, understanding the real problems can lead to not guilty verdicts or mitigated sentences, which is surely a better result for all?
So reductions in public expenditure, which particularly hurt forensic accountants and other expert witnesses, have much more impact on the defence team than the prosecution. This can lead to poor verdicts and subsequent appeals that in the long run are going to be much more costly than dealing with the fraud properly in the first place.