The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has backed a review into legislation to ensure that more money can be given back to victims of financial crimes.
Max Hill, director of public prosecutions at the CPS, told the House of Lords during a select committee hearing that current limitations to compensation rules should be amended to give courts further powers to reimburse victims with any additional funds recovered.
He explained that confiscation orders are used to force a defendant who financially benefitted from their criminal activity to pay back the sum that was illegally taken from victims.
If they are not ordered to pay the full sum, current legislation allows to increase a confiscation order if the criminal is later found to have additional money or assets. But Hill said there isn’t a similar framework for compensation, which means that any additional funds recovered cannot be used to further compensate victims.
Hill said: “Victims of fraud can lose their life savings at the hands of ruthless criminals. It is right that as much money as possible should be returned to victims of crime, but I am concerned current legislation means in some cases we do not have the power to do this.
“One of the most significant tools we have to disrupt and deter organised crime is the ability to recover the proceeds criminals gain through their illicit activity. We will pursue every last penny and would like to do more to help fraud victims get as much of their money back as quickly as possible.”
Hold corporations accountable
The director of public prosecutions also commended the Law Commission on its paper into corporate criminal liability as he said that expanding the ‘failure to prevent’ model to fraud offences would enable prosecutors to hold both corporate entities and individuals to account more effectively.
Hill added: “The CPS is in full support of any reform of Corporate Criminal Liability that would help prevent crime and pursue criminals. These changes would give us more power to hold businesses and individuals to account and bring them to justice.”
He also gave an update on the CPS’ economic crime strategy:
- Between April and December 2021, 5,407 prosecutions featured fraud and forgery as the principal offence;
- £568m ($712m, €665m) was recovered in the last five years with £126m returned to victims; and
- The prosecution service established the Serious Economic Organised Crime International Directorate (SEOCID) as a response to the “changing nature of complex crime”.