Omni-channel Forum Seeks to Take Serious Cases Straight to CPS
The ORIS Omni-channel Forum is embarking upon an ambitious lobbying project that could result in a change in the law to allow businesses to bring their own prosecution directly to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). If successful, the approach would transform the way cases are investigated and prosecuted and would reduce Police involvement in arrests and issuing warrants if the CPS believes there is strong enough evidence for a successful case against organised retail criminals.
The evidence and intelligence would be gathered by the affected business and sent to the CPS to take the matter further. This would allow the UK’s forty-three different Police forces to focus upon other priority cases in the current atmosphere of adversity cuts to law enforcement budgets.
Russell Mannix, vice chair of the Omni-channel Forum and head of LP for UK Mail, is seeking to arrange a meeting with the CPS to discuss the approach. “At present we have what can only be described as an intermittent service from the Police, which is, as a result of budget cuts, lacking a proper service provision.”
He said there is also a problem getting often-complex cases to attract the interest of the Police when they, through no fault of their own, have other cases to deal with and do not see or understand the significance of the evidence or the nature of the scam.
There is also the problem of jurisdiction. As with many complex fraud scams, because the offence takes place on the Internet, it is hard to make local forces understand the implications of the crime, which occurs not only cross border, but also in the ether.
Police forces today have to deal with crime occurring within their boundaries, and often—as is the experience of many national retail businesses—forces do not exchange or share information with neighbouring constabularies, or their IT systems are incompatible.
“There is a precedent for this—the Royal Mail, a hangover from when it was a Crown service, that allows it by law to bring its own prosecutions to the CPS. Other businesses would be interested in this model in cases that involve cross-border activity or Internet scams involving high-value frauds where the evidence provided by the business was compelling,” said Russell.
This would not involve every offence, but would focus on the patterns of cross-jurisdictional activity. It would be in the interest of the business to make sure that the evidence was thorough enough to take to the CPS, which would make the decision. They could then instruct the Police to issue a warrant within thirty days.
Action Fraud is currently the only conduit to report fraud, and there is concern that without the ability to bulk report, the process is too long and time consuming and the service, operated by City of London Police, cannot action all cases or report back to victims in the majority of incidences.
“Without this kind of approach, the situation is likely to get worse as Internet fraud and cyber-crime becomes more sophisticated,” said Russell.
The UK Government pledged to make cyber-crime a priority, but there is fear from businesses that without the resources or correct approach, the promise will be seen as empty political rhetoric. This could require a move from an accusatorial to an inquisitorial model of justice—intelligent and evidence-led by the CPS, which would inform actions or next steps. This streamlines the approach and keeps Police involvement to a minimum.
Traditionally, crimes are reported to Police, and they take the case to the CPS, but the new approach would subvert the process and take less time. The Omni-channel Forum, which is comprised of some of the biggest online retailers and supply chain organisations, has written to the CPS to request a meeting.
If successful, the approach would transform the way cases are investigated and prosecuted and would reduce Police involvement in arrests and issuing warrants if the CPS believes there is strong enough evidence for a successful case against organised retail criminals.