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Panel: Private sector involvement in prosecuting criminal offences

Posted on 18 December 2015

On 26 November, Mishcon de Reya's Business Crime Group ran a high-level panel discussion looking at the role of the private sector in the investigation and prosecution of economic crime. Chaired by Sir Keir Starmer KCB QC MP, the panel included:

  • Charles Farr OBE – Director General, Office for Security & Counter-Terrorism
  • David Green CB QC – Director, Serious Fraud Office
  • Adrian Leppard QPM – Commissioner, City of London Police
  • Alison Levitt QC – Partner and Head of Business Crime, Mishcon de Reya LLP
  • Donald Toon – Director: Economic Crime Command, National Crime Agency

For a short film of the event, please click on the image. For more information please contact any member of our Business Crime Group.

Mishcon de Reya

Private sector involvement in prosecuting criminal offences

Chaired by
Sir Keir Starmer KCP QC MP


Alison Levitt QC
David Green CB QC
Donald Toon
Adrian Leppard QPM
Charles Farr MBE

Alison Levitt
Partner, Mishcon de Reya

This evenings Panel event involves a number of high level experts in the criminal justice system and it’s to discuss whether or not there is a role for the private sector in the investigation and prosecution of economic crime.

The thing that we are interested in at the moment is that there is a suggestion there is a bit of an expectation gap in that the victims are told that they have a right to justice and yet in an era of public expenditure cuts some of the statutory organisations are finding it increasingly difficult to meet those expectations.

Sir Keir Starmer KCP QC MP

A lot of companies and corporate bodies when they have a dispute will look to civil resolution of that dispute.  I don’t think many of them appreciate that they can also bring private prosecution.  There are real benefits for private companies and increasingly private companies and corporate bodies are waking up to this and using what’s available to them.

Tim Thompson
Business Crime, Mishcon de Reya

As well as having a really interesting Panel, we also had a really engage audience and some good provocative questions about the challenges in developing a link between public prosecutions and private prosecutions.

Adrian Leppard QPM
City of London Police

This evenings’ conference we will be looking at how do we really liberate the private sector law firms.  You know we absolutely agree that asset recovery is a big part of taking down offenders but we do not have the capacity in law enforcement and the Crown in policing so we have got to look at how law firms can be enabled and for that we need to look at the legislation and ways in which they can be funded as well.

Gareth Minty
Business Crime, Mishcon de Reya

We have a number of cases of potential private prosecutions covering a real cross section both in terms of victims and their means and their motivations but also in terms of what’s brought them to that place and over time I think the more cases like that that pass through the system I think the greater the body of evidence will be that the private prosecutor can conduct cases in the same way, if not in fact, better than the public prosecutor could to the same standards and bring in to bear the same experience that we all have in relation to criminal litigation and I think that is an important and exciting development out of tonight as well.

The Rt. Hon. Lord Arbuthnot of Edrom

It is an extremely interesting Panel of highly experienced people.  One of the particular concerns that most people have is that public money is not going to be going up at any time and so the private sector has got to be involved in this.

Stuart Alford QC
Serious Fraud Office

Of all the challenges, the one that was highlighted in a number of different guises is about the conflict of interest.  The Director of the FSO spoke of the conflict of interest between the internal investigation undertaken on behalf of the company and the results of that investigation and how those could be taken on, adopted by a public sector prosecutor.

Alison Levitt QC
Partner, Mishcon de Reya

So what we are asking ourselves is whether there is a role for the private sector.  If there is a role for the private sector, what might that look like?  Might it create a two-tier justice system where, for example, if you are a rich victim of crime you get to bring a private prosecution and if you are a poor victim then either your case doesn’t get prosecuted at all or ends up being left in a sense to be dealt with by the State.  Would this create a two-tier system perhaps if it does it doesn’t matter.  Perhaps it will be like the Health Service where people are entitled to have private health insurance in addition to the National Health Service.  Those are the issues that we hope to explore this evening.

Mishcon de Reya

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