Fraud case will press ahead in spite of aid cuts

Peter Spence
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A KEY fraud trial will go ahead despite a lack of legal aid funding as the Court of Appeal yesterday overturned the decision of a lower court to halt the case.

The Financial Conduct Authority, which is pursuing the case, backed the ruling, stating it “is committed to pursuing criminal action in appropriate cases” and is “pleased that this case can now proceed towards trial.”

It had feared the ruling could effectively put an end to its anti-fraud efforts, with the case the first in a long line of prosecutions across insider trading, market manipulation and boiler room frauds.

The individuals in this case are charged with offences of conspiracy to defraud, possessing criminal property and offences contrary to the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000. It is classed as a Very High Cost Case (VHCC) and the defendants had not been able to find private representation, which a judge at Southwark Crown Court had said would prevent the defendants receiving a proper defence.

This is one of eight cases classified as a VHCC that has reached the same point, with the accused unable to find representation. The case is now set to move to the Crown Court.

Then the defendants could access the Public Defender Service (PDS), with a trial possibly taking place as early as January 2015. The PDS currently has 22 QCs on staff, sufficient to provide representation, although the Ministry of Justice may need to find more barristers, for which it has been recruiting.