I am so angry, I am finding it hard to restrain my otherwise genteel prose and not adopt some basic Anglo Saxon language instead.
I opened the newspaper this morning to be confronted with the strap-line '...Plea Bargains for UK...' The story opened;
'... The Government is to give the green light to the introduction of plea bargains in the prosecution of complex financial crime.
The Ministry of Justice is set to publish its response to consultation on “deferred prosecution agreements” the legal mechanism companies will be able to use to avoid prosecution for financial crimes such as bribery.
Legislation could follow as soon as early next year. Barry Vitou, partner at law-firm Pinsent Masons said: “There have been rumours for sometime that the Government is looking to accelerate the introductions of DPAs. It fits with the Government’s crime agenda it is now pursuing.”
It is assumed any new law will mimic the US model. The law allows companies to agree a deal with prosecutors, including paying a fine and setting remedial action, in return for avoiding prosecution...'
If this discredited Government ever wanted to be able to dispel the damaging impression that they were too close to the organised criminals and the gangsters who run the City of London; that they were still captured, financially and politically by the disgusting vested interests who squeeze the billions of pounds out of the sleazy funds that daily flow through the financial sewers of the London markets; that they protect the interests of those who benefit from the vile profits from money laundering, Bribery and Corruption on a global scale, foreign tax evasion, or home-bred tax avoidance for corporate entities who thumb their nose at British Corporation Taxes; or those who process the uncountable billions of dollars, pounds and euros that are generated by the global drug barons and which have made the City of London economically drug dependent, they should not have announced this specific piece of criminal justice policy right now.
Let us dispel one lie right away. What is proposed is not 'plea bargaining' by any stretch of the criminal imagination. If you want to give it a name, then call it by what it truly is and that is a craven capitulation to the vested interests of the financial sector, who have just been given another 'get out of jail free' card by this most feeble of Governments.
This proposal is 'Prosecution Avoidance', even the press release says so. It is a means of not being prosecuted for major crimes, how on earth can this be called 'plea bargaining'?
Plea bargaining takes place when criminal charges have been brought, the defendant charged by a prosecutor, and the defendant is now at a stage of the process when he is confronted with the full understanding of the gravity of the indictment against him, for which he will be tried.
He is then invited to indicate which charges he will be willing to plead guilty to immediately, having received an indication from the prosecution of the amount of jail time they are going to invite the judge to accept as a fair and just outcome of the plea agreement. The defendant knows he is going to jail as a convicted criminal, he is now merely negotiating the amount of time he has to serve!
Plea bargaining is something I have been advocating for some time, having seen how effectively it could be used in the US courts, particularly against white collar criminals. I studied plea bargaining in the US courts while travelling on a Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship, and the topic of my study with which I was expected to comply was '...Methods and systems designed to make Fraud trials more effective in the UK...'
I studied plea bargaining in the Federal Courts in Washington, and in two separate State courts in Pennsylvania and in New York. I sat with the judges on the Bench and was given a completely free rein to interview Judges, prosecutors, both federal and district attorneys, defence attorneys, police officers, and Court administrators, and I observed the plea bargaining process first hand in a large number of trials.
Upon my return to England I completed a full report of my findings which were circulated around Whitehall, the SFO, the Treasury, the AG's Office, the Bar Council, and the Law Society. Upon submission, my report disappeared into a legal black hole and I never heard anything about it again! Nevertheless, it was there to be used if so desired and it had the full approval of the Manhattan D.A.s office as an accurate exemplar of plea bargaining.
So, I am not going to accept the casual use of the suggestion that what is proposed here is a rigorous 'plea bargaining' process, because it is not. The use of this process-specific phrase is a typical piece of British chicanery, emanating from some weasel-mouthed civil servants in the Department of Justice, who have taken it upon themselves to use this honourable phrase to give the impression that the British are about to take white collar crime seriously.
Mark my words, as this debate continues we will hear a lot more of this big lie being spread about, that this is an effective and just way of dealing with white collar crime cases. We will be faced with more lies when we are told that this policy demonstrates that the Government is illustrating its toughness in going after the major white collar criminals, and dealing with them in a draconian manner. They will spin the effect of this law, they will dissemble, they will lie, they will float a package of untruths and distortions about this policy, and they will say how they are now getting really tough and prosecuting more white collar criminals.
Well don't believe a word of it, because it is all total bollocks!
The Government is talking about introducing what are called 'Deferred Prosecution Agreements' (DPA). These are yet another soft-option, hire purchase equivalent for the fat cats!
Today, Justice Minister Damian Green started the bullshit smothering process when he said that the new arrangements would give prosecutors an "effective new tool" to tackle economic crime.
"Fraud alone is estimated to cost the UK £73 billion each year, yet far too few serious cases are brought to justice," he said. "It is clear we must find new and better ways of ensuring organisations who commit criminal wrongdoing do not get away with it. DPAs... will ensure that more unacceptable corporate behaviour is dealt with including through substantial penalties, proper reparation to victims and measures to prevent future wrongdoing."
The new DPAs will allow organisations to voluntarily admit to wrongdoing and resolve to make things right. Where a prosecutor, such as the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) or Serious Fraud Office (SFO) agrees that a DPA is an appropriate course of action, it will be able to defer prosecution in exchange for a range of stringent conditions.
The agreement will be made in open court and details of the wrongdoing and sanctions published. If the prosecutor is satisfied that the organisation has fulfilled its obligations by the end of the deferral period there will be no prosecution, but if the conditions are not met then the organisation could still be prosecuted.
This is just the biggest load of unadulterated crap! The perpetrator has nothing to lose, and everything to gain. The bank isn't going to be prosecuted, they have successfully avoided such an outcome, so what else could they possibly want?
The perpetrator, (well, in reality his slippery lawyers, all of whom will profit mightily from these proposals, a feature which will make their adoption by the snooty 'Magic Circle' of City Solicitors far more easy to effect, because the whole process will not mean ultimate criminalisation, so they won't have to get their lily-white hands grubby dealing with criminals) will effectively be allowed to determine the outcome of the proceedings, in consultation with the prosecutors.
A DPA is a wonderful Christmas present for a lazy prosecutor, because he will not even have to worry about going into court to run a contested case, so it will suit the criminal law illiterates inside the regulatory agencies, who will benefit again because they can now start showing the number of DPAs as part of their commitment to firmer regulation.
This process is so transparently corrupt and dishonest it makes me sick with anger!
DPAs will now become the de facto benchmark for dealing with City financial crime. The banks and the financiers are going to have a field day. They are willing to pay fines quite happily; they pay compensation quite happily; they will pay costs quite happily, because it doesn't come out of their pockets, so it doesn't hurt them one iota. The financial penalties only hit their shareholders, so it does not matter, and who cares anyway!
They will agree to any proposals a prosecutor asks for, because it will only mean throwing other people's money at the remedial requirements. They will sit back, nod their heads, commit to everything they are asked, and then get on with the business of engineering more financial crimes.
Oh, and don't think for one minute that the likelihood of their being prosecuted at some stage in the future if they don't behave, holds any basis of reality, cos' it just ain't going to happen! The passage of time, helps witnesses go missing, forget their evidence, lose exhibits, and generally make the reality of a lawyer-backed application for a dismissal of all charges so much more likely.
This truly is one of the most spineless and craven actions by this increasingly discredited Government. To announce this total cop-out of all levels of responsibility for the prosecution of financial crime in the City, at exactly the same time as the Prime Minister is talking big about the need to get tougher with ordinary criminals, is nothing more than the purest hypocrisy.
It's all about being hard on working class criminals because that gets votes, while letting the City off scot-free. Every time the FCA comes up against a piece of organised crime in the financial sector, the perpetrator's lawyers will be straight on the phone talking sweetly about a DPA, because otherwise, '...our clients will reserve their rights and will fight you tooth and nail, and it will take you years and huge costs just to come up with some charges with which you will then have to go to court and roll the dice...'
Take it from me, the FCA will roll over every time, and offer a DPA. The banks will accept it because it means that no-one ends up with a criminal conviction, (which as we now know, is the only thing they fear), and everyone lives to defraud another day!
What makes it worse is that the regulator and the government will spin this dishonest process as being a meaningful effort to combat City crime, while all the time, the frauds, the rip-offs, the money laundering, the insider dealing, the bribing, the corrupt practices, the facilitation of the needs of the dodgy foreign dictators and their blood money will continue.
This such an awful betrayal of ordinary working people who have been repeatedly fucked over by the criminal British banking system, that I am lost for the words to describe how I truly feel. It is symptomatic of this Government and the way they have completely lost touch with the ordinary meaning of words and the truth of the banking scandals which continue to engulf this country.
There is only one way to combat City crime, and that is to prosecute the wrong-doers as hard and as often as possible, so the message gets through to every Mafiosi in the Square Mile. We need ambitious criminal prosecutors and tough specialist fraud investigators who have proper criminal knowledge and understand the way the criminal mind works, and who are not scared, yes, let's use that word, who are not scared to take on the City establishments and their slippery servants with their weasel words, their mobile moralities and flexible integrity!
We did it in the 1970s and early 1980s, when I was at the Fraud Squad, and before the City fathers got scared of our nasty policing tactics and our honestly-held ambitions to lock up the City fat cats, and lobbied the Government and their Machiavellian civil servants, to clip our wings. I am proud that I was part of that era, and I feel sorry for my colleagues who are prevented from doing this good work today.
The Government can try and bull-shit us as much as they like. They can lie, and dissemble, and spin the truth as hard as they like about being tough on financial crime, but this piece of craven caving in to vested City interests isn't going to do it!