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Police have lost ‘interest in prosecuting fraud’, deputy High Court judge says

Police in the UK have lost interest in catching scammers and fraudsters, according to deputy High Court judge Clare Montgomery.

The leading barrister, who is also a recorder of the Crown Court, said “99%” of crimes perpetuated by “professional fraudsters” were not being investigated, with even less being prosecuted.

In the law and politics podcast, Double Jeopardy, Ms Montgomery told hosts Ken Macdonald and Tim Owen there had been a decline in interest in prosecuting fraud since the 90s.

Court file
The leading barrister said there had been a decline in interest in prosecuting fraud since the 90s (Jane Barlow/PA)

“Fraud just isn’t that exciting and, insofar as it has excited any interest, it’s mainly at the margins – in areas like proceeds of crime in relation to sanctions; or in relation to occasionally providing assistance to foreign governments,” she said.

“All of that does get attention, and some sort of resources at the investigative level. But in terms of actually having police officers interested in fraud, it has been subject to a decline now where I don’t believe they have any interest in prosecuting fraud anywhere.

“The sort of localism that’s been introduced by crime commissioners directing activities by local forces has reinforced that. So now, fraud is absolutely at the bottom of anyone’s agenda.”

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“You get the occasional show trial in that area. But the reality is that 99% of fraud at that level is not even investigated, still less prosecuted,” she said.

The barrister at Matrix Chambers added that she was not saying “nothing is happening”, but rather “nothing of any substance is happening that would actually deter a professional fraudster or even somebody willing to do dishonest things in the course of business – not necessarily because they’ve set out to be a criminal, but because they’re sufficiently selfish and self-interested not to care about the rights of others”.

Ms Montgomery went on to say the burden was heaviest on those who could not afford to sue for damages.