The government should work with the judiciary to pilot specialised economic crime courts, an influential committee of MPs concludes today. In a report on what it calls an 'epidemic' fraud, the House of Commons Justice Committee also supports calls for the creation of an offence of failure to prevent fraud. This is likely to be the subject of amendments to the Economic Crime and Transparency Bill, currently in committee stage in the House of Commons. In its report, the committee said it heard 'compelling proposals for dedicated economic crime courts to ensure there are judges with the right skills to oversee what can often be lengthy and sometimes complex cases.'
The report also deals with the volume of digital evidence underpinning cases, which has increased 'exponentially'. 'Our inquiry repeatedly heard that the existing legislation on disclosure was created at a time when the current volume of evidence submitted for cases could not have been envisaged.' However it shies away from recommending new legislation, preferring clearer guidelines on how current legislation should work. 'The attorney general should review the current disclosure gudelines and consider whether there is merit in introducing specific guidance on disclosure in fraud cases wtih large quantities of digital material.'
Greater engagement between the police, prosecution and defence could also help conclude cases in a timely manner, the report states. 'A key barrier to this engagement has been the lack of legal aid funding, and so we welcome the government's recent commitments in relation to ensuring this early engagement is incentivised through the legal aid schemes.' In another recommendation, the report proposes that sentencing guidelines be amended to be based on the impact that fraud crimes have on victims rather than the monetary value of the fraud.