Prosecutions for cyber crime rose by a third last year and white collar cases also rose by a small amount, according to new figures.
White collar crime generated 9,401 prosecutions over the past year, up from 9,343 previously. It is the first increase in five years, according to figures collated by law firm Pinsent Masons, but represents a sharp drop from the 11,261 in 2011.
Cyber crime prosecutions have risen much faster, with 61 recorded in 2015, up from 45 in 2014.
The increase in white collar prosecutions includes a number of high-profile cases brought by the Serious Fraud Office. These include the SFO’s first conviction of an individual for manipulating the Libor interest rate following the trial of Tom Hayes, a former UBS yen derivatives trader. He was sentenced to 14 years in prison which, on appeal, was cut to 11.
The figures also include the imprisonment of Magnus Peterson for perpetrating high-value fraud via his hedge fund, Weavering Capital.
A third white collar conviction is the jailing of three high-flying City traders last year for conspiring to cheat the tax authorities by investing in a film-finance scheme. James Hyde, Hamish Maclellan and Phillip Jenkins all worked for Jefferies and were convicted at Southwark Crown Court after claiming to be “active members” of a film-finance partnership that invested in Starsuckers — about the cult of celebrity.
The Pinsent Masons figures are based on the number of defendants facing prosecution rather than successful prosecutions completed within that year.
Barry Vitou, partner and head of global corporate crime at Pinsent Masons, said: “Any increase in prosecutions for economic crime represents a gain for the authorities and should be welcomed.
“Organisations fighting white collar crime now need to ensure momentum does not slip.”
He said it was encouraging that cyber crime prosecutions were growing. “The fact that prosecutions continue to rise in this area is promising, and indicative of the efforts the authorities are making to get to grips with tackling what is a highly complex issue.”
Last year, the Crime Survey for England and Wales reported that about 3.8m adults in England and Wales had been victims of some form of online fraud in the space of a year.
The survey, which included statistics on internet crime for the first time, found an estimated 5.1m incidents of online fraud and an estimated 2.5m incidents categorised under the Computer Misuse Act, where the victim’s computer or other device was infected by a virus or where a victim’s email or social media account had been hacked.
Pinsent Masons said that, in the past year, 617,618 fraud offences were recorded in England and Wales, up 4 per cent on the previous year.
Of these, 224,683 offences were recorded via Action Fraud, the national fraud and cyber crime reporting centre, and 392,936 via Financial Fraud Action UK and Cifas, fraud prevention services.
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