Law firms hired by London police to pursue business criminals for their assets

Under a radical new scheme law firms will be hired by the police to use civil law remedies to seize illegally gained assets of business criminals, according to a report in today’s The Guardian.

In a pilot project by the City of London police, the lead force on fraud in England and Wales, officers will pass details of suspects and cases to law firms, which will use civil courts to seize the money.

Currently, police pursue people suspected of making millions through financial crimes by prosecuting them in the criminal courts. After conviction, a lengthy process starts to seize the proceeds of crime, which can take years.

The force says the scheme is a way of more effectively tackling fraud, which is now the biggest type of crime. The experiment, which is backed by the government and being closely watched by other law enforcement agencies, is expected to lead to cases reaching civil courts this year or early next year.

Commander Chris Greany, head of economic crime at City of London police, said: “It is a huge shift. Civil recovery allows us to get hold of a criminal’s money sooner, and repay back victims sooner.” Mr Greany said the law firm and others in the private sector would bear the risk, in return for a share of the money taken off the criminal suspect.

Katie Wheatley, joint head of criminal law at Bindmans, a London law firm, expressed unease over the proposals, which she said gave police “what they would regard as an easy deterrent, without having the inconvenience of proving an offence to a criminal standard”.

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