Criminal Costs Regulation - Guilty as too costly to prove innocent?
From 31st October, companies and individuals in the UK that have been acquitted of fraud, corporate manslaughter and other serious offences could be left facing legal bills as Criminal Costs Regulation changes to only reimburse the equivalent of legal aid rates.
As a result, it is expected that many under prosecution may simply plead guilty to an offence in order to avoid the costs involved in a private defence. The move comes as central government costs have escalated with a marked increase in the number of prosecutions brought to court.
Health and safety partner at international law firm Eversheds, Kevin Elliott gives his perspective on the changes: "The changes to court costs do not address the crux of the problem in that there has been a substantial increase in the number of weak prosecutions brought to court. If anything, the Regulation will only encourage more flimsy prosecutions as they will now be more likely to secure a conviction given that companies or individuals may decide to accept liability rather than fight for their innocence."
Neill Blundell, partner and head of fraud at Eversheds adds:"This is just another attempt by the Government to penalise business and directors who find themselves the victims of over zealous prosecutions. What message does this send to our regulators and law enforcement agencies? Clearly, it does not make them think carefully before embarking on criminal action."
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