Economic crime covers a range of serious offences including fraud, corruption, bribery, false accounting and money laundering. These crimes are deeply harmful to individuals, communities, law-abiding companies and the economy. In this increasingly complex landscape, we must remain vigilant to ensure that the UK continues to foster a fair and open environment from which companies can safely conduct business.
As Justice Secretary, I am proud of our world class and internationally renowned court system which enables highly complex crimes to be prosecuted. This includes working with the City of London Corporation on the creation of a new courts facility in the City of London. The flagship court will tackle fraud and related economic crime, including the expanding area of cyber-crime, whilst also hearing other cases. The Ministry of Justice is committed to keeping the law pertaining to economic crime under review. This involves ensuring it is fit for purpose and provides law enforcement agencies with effective enforcement tools.
With this in mind, we launched a Call for Evidence on options for reforming corporate liability for economic crime. The Call for Evidence examined whether there is a case for reform to ensure that the law in this area is fit for purpose. Responses were submitted from a wide range of stakeholders who expressed many different views on the existing legal frameworks. The findings of the Call for Evidence do not provide a conclusive evidence-base on which to justify reform but raised important questions about the operation of the identification doctrine.
In order to make a deeper assessment of the issues highlighted by the Call for Evidence, the Government asked departments, regulators, law enforcement and prosecution agencies to contribute further evidence, particularly in relation to challenges faced when using the identification doctrine to prosecute large corporate bodies. This work was conducted thoroughly, but we were unable to draw decisive conclusions regarding whether, and how, our approach to corporate liability for economic crimes can be strengthened.
We need conclusive answers to the important questions raised by these two evidence gathering processes and in order to ascertain a comprehensive understanding of the potential options and implications of reform the Government will be commissioning an expert review of the identification doctrine by the Law Commission. A Law Commission review comes at an opportune time and will be able to take into consideration more recent developments since the closure of the Call for Evidence. This includes the commencement of new corporate criminal offences in the Criminal Finances Act 2017; the expansion of the Senior Managers & Certification Regime in the financial services sector; the Money Laundering, Terrorist Financing and Transfer of Funds (Information on the Payer) Regulations 2017 which have each improved the governance of firms to which they apply and the recent judgments in the SFO case against Barclays, and Barclays Bank PLC.
Further details on the outcomes of the Call for Evidence, the work undertaken since and next steps are provided in this paper. I would like to express my gratitude to all those who took the time to submit their comprehensive and considered responses on this important issue.
Rt Hon Robert Buckland MP
Lord Chancellor & Secretary of State for Justice
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