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City Fraud

Volume 86: debated on Monday 11 November 1985

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asked the Attorney-General whether he has discussed the question of City fraud with the Director of Public Prosecutions; and if he will make a statement.

Yes. I frequently meet the Director of Public Prosecutions and senior members of his staff to discuss the work of his Department. The scope of these discussions includes the handling of fraud investigations generally, as well as individual cases of particular difficulty or importance.

Does the Solicitor-General recall that several months ago the Attorney-General said to a Tory Member of Parliament that he found the level of City fraud unacceptable? Since then we have had revelations about people connected with Johnson Matthey, and we now know that Peter Cameron-Webb and his associates who ran the PCW syndicate at Lloyds managed to get away with £70 million and are now living a life of luxury on the other side of the Atlantic. Why is it that the Attorney-General and the DPP seem to have one law for bankers and city financiers and another one under which, when he is called upon to nod through the Cyprus war trials, he can give the go-ahead? When Clive Ponting's case was brought before him, the Attorney-General gave the go-ahead. Is it not high time that the law of the land applied equally to everybody, financiers included?

I do not doubt that the Attorney-General expressed the view that fraud was at an unacceptable level, because any fraud is unacceptable. The law is the same for bankers, accountants, for rich and poor. The difficulty that the Attorney-General and the Director of Public Prosecutions have to face is that in some cases it is harder to acquire evidence in a form that is admissible in an English court of law. The hon. Gentleman will agree that it is desirable to have a prosecution case properly founded upon admissible evidence before proceedings are begun.

Does my hon. and learned Friend agree tht the practice of peremptory challenges in City fraud cases is being used to constitute juries which have greater difficulty in understanding the facts than they should have?

As my hon. Friend will recall, peremptory challenges were brought down from seven to three. This is not a wholly simple question. The use of the peremptory challenge has increased recently, and it is desirable to look into it. When we have the Crown Prosecution Service in being, that will be a proper means of looking at it.