On 30 March 2021, the Crown Prosecution Service introduced its first Economic Crime Strategy. The policy sets out a high level statement of the CPS's plans and aspirations for tackling fraud and other economic crimes within its five year strategy: CPS 2025. The strategy aims to cover a broad range of offences including bribery, corruption, money laundering, sanctions and terrorist financing, it also covers fraud against the individual and in both the private and public sectors.
Through this strategy the CPS has committed itself to reviewing the current structures in place and relocating resources if appropriate. The aim is to reduce the backlog in cases caused by the myriad of practical problems connected to the pandemic by supporting virtual hearings and utilising more Nightingale courts for fraud cases. The CPS is also supporting the creation of a new economic crime court in London which is due to open in 2026. This court will hear fraud, cybercrime and other economic crime cases, along with civil fraud cases. Recovery of the proceeds of crime and seeking to compensate the victims where possible are renewed priorities as well as a focus on increasing their digital capabilities including the use of data to inform future planning and AI in disclosure. Disclosure has been the subject of criticism of the CPS in the past. It is to be hoped that the use of AI will help capture all kinds of communications that will enable the CPS and the police to better fulfil their disclosure duty to the defence in the future.
The Economic Crime Strategy is evolutionary and builds on previous themes, but is clearly a statement of intent since the investigation and prosecution of economic crime is expected to be a large part of the CPS's diet of cases in the next four years. The strategy is silent though on the CPS's relationship with the other agencies involved in prosecuting economic crime such as the SFO and the NCA and which agency will focus on what cases. The CPS has previously published guidance on this, however, there are concerns that some cases fall outside both the SFO and CPS's remits.
The CPS has reported that in the last financial year it prosecuted 10,000 economic crime cases. It has also, in recent years, contributed to the establishment of the National Economic Crime Centre in 2018 and supported the delivery of the government’s Public/Private Economic Crime Plan and Asset Recovery Action Plan, based on the Anti-Corruption Strategy and Serious and Organised Crime Strategy. By publishing this strategy document now the CPS are signalling they will be ramping up their efforts to tackle economic crime. We should expect them to concentrate in particular on the investigation and prosecution fraud, corruption and money laundering in the next four years.