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Fraud Fears

Lock and credit cards
BBC Radio 4's Law In Action
Tuesday 24 February 1600 GMT
On Radio 4 and online

It's predicted that fraud will rise as the recession bites - but do we have the mechanisms to fight it?

This week, the former Director of Public Prosecutions, Sir Ken Macdonald was unequivocal. He wrote that "too many people and too many institutions function as though they are beyond the reach of the criminal law."

His views are echoed by Monty Raphael, the doyen of British fraud lawyers, who's head of fraud and regulatory law at the solicitors Peters and Peters.

He says the criminals who would have once specialised in armed robbery have found financial crime is more lucrative and less risky.

"They've now moved into white-collar crime," he says. "We find people who have moved off the pavement, given up their sawn-off shotguns and stocking masks and have moved into committing frauds in the warmth and comfort of an office, with nothing more than a laptop and a telephone line."

Charles Ponzi
Charles Ponzi, one of the greatest swindlers in American history

We hear from one of their victims - a Spanish translator living in London who asked to be known only as Enrique.

He tells the programme how a plausible-sounding broker persuaded him to invest several thousand pounds in high-return shares in a Chinese property company.

When Enrique went to the broker's office in Canary Wharf, he found it didn't exist - and his money had vanished.

Vera Baird, the solicitor general, tells the programme, "our conviction rate for fraud has escalated in the last year," she says. "We are spending a lot more money and a lot more effort and a lot more coordination trying to prevent fraud."

Judgeology 101

Becoming a judge used to be a question of a tap on the shoulder of a lawyer on a Friday afternoon, and he'd be sitting on the bench on the Monday morning.

No longer.

Now judges expect training (as well as a transparent selection procedure) before they take up their role.

 Karl Johnson as judge, Mr Justice Byrne
What type of skills do judges develop in their training?

Law in Action gained rare access to a training session run by the Judicial Studies Board for England and Wales for 32 new and would-be civil court justices.

We watch as they determine a complex question involved in a road accident insurance claim over which expert witness reports are needed. These kind of decisions are required regularly if cases are to proceed quickly and efficiently.

Justice Alistair Geoffrey MacDuff who's director of civil studies at the JSB tells the programme that one focus is ensuring that judges can deal with difficult people.

"Litigants who come to court are under stress. One has to deal with them kindly and politely."

Coming Up

Next week we report on the growing shortage of independent guardians who represent the rights of children in the family courts. And we ask if a new law will ensure that separated parents comply with contact orders.

Contact the programme

If you have thoughts on any of the topics we've covered, or any other legal issues, you can contact us by email at, or by post at Law In Action, BBC White City, Wood Lane, London W12 7TS.

Law In Action is broadcast on Tuesday 24 February 2009 at 1600 GMT on BBC Radio 4.

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