If you have been defrauded of money or assets and the Police do not prosecute, then you may  consider a private prosecution – but it’s not easy.   

Criminal Prosecution

The Police recommend that you report any fraud to Action Fraud, who collate the information and where relevant pass cases onto the appropriate Police Force. 

The Police do not, however, have the resources to investigate every case.

If your case is successfully investigated it will be referred to the Crown Prosecution Service who will determine whether or not to prosecute.  This may be in a Magistrate’s Court or in the Crown Court

Private Prosecutions

If there is no criminal prosecution, you can consider a civil prosecution., which can result in a fine for the fraudster but not a custodial sentence or similar.

Anyone can bring a civil prosecution, but it can be expensive to pay for an investigation and prosecution so is usually only pursued in high value cases by people with significant financial assets.

Anyone contemplating a private prosecution should seek professional legal advice from a specialist solicitor or barrister.

Civil Litigation and Asset Recovery

As a fraud victim you may decide to seek compensation and recover assets by suing the fraudster (the defendant) in the civil courts. Breach of contract is the most common use for this.

A wide range of factors will influence the prospects of recovering your losses:

•             whether the money, or the fraudster, is located overseas;

•             the total number of claimants;

•             the availability of the fraudster’s assets;

•             the size of the total loss; and

•             the willingness of law enforcement agencies to cooperate and share information with the claimant (particularly when a criminal case has already been pursued).

Many lawsuits result in out-of-court settlements. Those cases that do go to trial are dealt with by the County Court or High Court, where they are allocated to an appropriate ‘track’ according to their value and complexity.

Costs

You can check online whether or not you qualify for legal aid at https://www.gov.uk/check-legal-aid

It is likely that you will need to pay your own legal fees, investigation costs and out-of-pocket expenses (known as ‘disbursements’). But other funding options are sometimes available.

Some of your legal expenses may be covered by an existing insurance policy. Otherwise, it may be possible to buy ‘after the event’ insurance, with the premium paid up-front, before proceedings start.

If you are one of a number of victims affected by the same fraud, you might agree to share costs by acting collectively, in a class action.

Credit Card Provider

If you pay for something using a UK-issued credit card and are defrauded, you might be able to recover your losses from the card provider.

Purchases between £100 and £30,000 made wholly or partially with a credit card are protected by Section 75 of the UK Consumer Credit Act 1974. This makes the card provider and the retailer jointly liable if something goes wrong.

As the cardholder, the most for which you will usually be liable is the first £50 of any unauthorised withdrawals or purchases (unless, for example, you have been grossly negligent such as not keeping your PIN secure).

Contact your credit card provider and give full details of what happened.

Insurance

It is worth checking your insurance policies to see whether you are insured against fraud, theft and/or dishonesty.

This may be through a stand-alone policy – for example, for card protection (individuals) or employee dishonesty/fidelity (businesses) – or as part of a wider insurance product such as home contents, travel, or legal expenses.

You can sometimes buy insurance after a fraud has taken place. This is called ‘after the event’ insurance. You might need this kind of policy to help fund the costs of civil litigation, asset recovery and/or insolvency. Such policies do not really provide insurance against fraud loss, but against the high cost of trying to recover those losses through legal proceedings.

Civil actions require a lower standard of proof than criminal proceedings - they only need to establish the case on a balance of probabilities.

This information is provided by The Fraud Advisory Panel.

For further information go to https://www.fraudadvisorypanel.org/uk-victims/recovering-your-money

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