Showing the LAA how it could really save money
In the current austere times, is it always necessary for experts to write the gold standard report that the various court procedure rules envisage?
If you read the requirements in Part 19 of the Criminal Procedure Rules (or the Civil or Family Court equivalents) you will conclude that every report an expert writes must meet the ‘gold standard’ set down therein. Such reports require time, and money, to compile. Yet it is fairly common for the opinions contained in such reports to effectively end the litigation, in so much as they can force one side or the other to capitulate. With the Legal Aid Agency (LAA) continuing to struggle with budgetary constraints, is there a case for looking at lower cost alternatives to a full-blown Part 19-compliant report? Is there any way that money could be saved by short-circuiting the process?
One of the expert members of the UK Register of Expert Witnesses thinks so. Richard Emery, an expert in retail theft and fraud cases, says:
‘It is not uncommon for me to need to analyse 100’s or even 1000’s of transaction records to establish what is most likely to have happened. My reports can, inevitably, be quite lengthy, and costly, as they need to cover a wide range of topics such as ‘is the stock missing?’, ‘is the cash missing?’, ‘who recorded the transactions?’, ‘who authorised them?’, ‘who was working at the time?’ and, importantly, ‘is the data reliable?’.
‘Twice in the last few months my investigations (on behalf of the defendant’s solicitors) have revealed a single aspect of the case that was so significant that in my view it would result in ‘no case to answer’, and so I faced a choice. I could spend time and LAA money writing a full Part 19 compliant report or I could seek to deal with it in another way. In both cases I discussed the situation with the instructing solicitor and it was agreed that I should write a short open letter for the solicitors to present to the court and the CPS. My letters expressed an ‘initial opinion’ supported by sufficient detail to enable the prosecution to clearly understand how I had come to the concern that I was expressing. In both cases the CPS dropped the case, saving £1,000’s of LAA costs.’
In these cash-strapped times, perhaps we should all be looking at how we might be able to take cost out of the system without compromising our responsibility to the over-riding objective. No doubt, Mr Emery’s actions have earnt him much respect from his instructing solicitors and the local CPS, and hopefully lots of repeat business.
Richard Emery also investigates Credit/Debit Card Fraud and Online Banking Fraud. Two recent investigations, in which the account holders had £18,000 and £59,000 stolen from their bank accounts, have resulted in him carefully considering the balance between ‘customer convenience’ and ‘account security’. In light of that review, he is proposing a change to the ‘faster payments’ process. If you would like to read about his proposals go to www.24hourdelay.co.uk.