Dear Crown Prosecution Service,

I refer to the CPS lawyer's decision process for filtering out cases to prosecute.

The stages being:

1) The evidential stage: Lawyers must be satisfied that there is enough evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction... If a case does not pass the evidential stage it will not go ahead, no matter how important or serious it may be.

2) The public interest stage: If the case passes the evidential stage lawyers then decide whether a prosecution is needed in the public interest. A case has to pass both stages before the CPS can start or continue a prosecution.

An added note states:

The lawyer is also in a position to identify weak cases without a realistic prospect of conviction and make sure they are not pursued.

This can be contrasted with a statement made on national TV by a CPS representative:

"People who commit fraud, in any walk of life, should know that the scale and technicality of a case is no barrier to bringing it to justice. At the heart of any complex fraud is a simple notion of dishonesty which is something that we can all understand."

I understand police forces routinely dismiss serious allegations of bailiff fraud (well documented) on the grounds there would be no realistic prospects of a successful prosecution.

In light of the conflicting messages, what policy does the Crown Prosecution Service hold that recommends against or deters police forces taking on cases of bailiff fraud against members of the public.

Yours faithfully,

R. Skinner

Freedom of Information Unit, Crown Prosecution Service

Dear R. Skinner,

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT 2000 REQUEST

I acknowledge receipt of your request for information.

Your request was received on 26th April 2013 and I am dealing with it under the terms of the Freedom of Information Act 2000. Please note there is a twenty working day limit (from receipt of request) in which we are required to respond to requests under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

The deadline for your request is 27th May 2013.

In some circumstances a fee may be payable and if that is the case, I will let you know the likely charges before proceeding.

Yours sincerely,

Miss H Hardaker

Information Management Unit
Tel: 020 3357 0899
Fax: 020 3357 0229
E-mail: [CPS request email]

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Arnold Layne left an annotation ()

Obviously another casualty of today's target and performance culture is the Criminal justice system.

It would appear the police and CPR have no interest in taking on this kind of crime because of the risk a failure to successfully prosecute would pose, and the impact it might have on success rates which they are no doubt under pressure to maintain at a certain level.

The CPS is just another organisation playing on the "public interest" and using it as a "get-out-of-jail-free card" to avoid performing its proper function.

The "public interest" must rate up there as one of the biggest con-tricks played on the public in recent years, but everyone fell for it.

This does send out a disturbing signal to those weighing up the risks of living dishonestly. If you're criminally minded and considering pursuing a career in crime, it seems sensible that one's speciality would focus on offences deemed not in the public interest – local government etc. comes very much to mind.

The justice system has got to be profitable for the government. Any possibility of a failing to successfully prosecute must be considered a threat to their profits.

It seems your best chance of kicking the system into gear is to shame them; work on the press and media to get this systematic theft (aided and abetted by councils) in the public interest. However, entering into the equation the threat to income obtained from the poorest and most disadvantaged, I doubt any amount of shaming would persuade the government to give the police or CPS permission to investigate this kind of crime.

The press release says it all. There's obviously a different face for the public which is completely at odds with reality. The truth is that the scale and technicality of a case has everything to do with NOT bringing people who commit fraud to justice.

Freedom of Information Unit, Crown Prosecution Service

1 Attachment

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT 2000

Dear R Skinner,

Please find attached response to your recent FoI.

Yours sincerely,

Miss H Hardaker
Information Management Unit

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Dear Crown Prosecution Service,

Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of Information reviews.

I am writing to request an internal review of Crown Prosecution Service's handling of my FOI request 'Decision to Prosecute'.

I was hoping for this FoI request to throw some light on where the decision making process falls down allowing a substantial amount of crime in the private bailiff industry (abetted by councils) to continue un-prosecuted.

If the response given today was true there would not be a single Chief Executive or Revenues officer at one of the hundreds of local authorities who had not yet done a spell at her Majesty's pleasure.

A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is available on the Internet at this address:
http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/de...

Yours faithfully,

R. Skinner

Cherie Jerez left an annotation ()

You might find some answers if you read the transcript of the justice select committee

"THE WORK OF THE CROWN PROSECUTION SERVICE"

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa...

Simply place the term "%" in the search box of the document.

Unsurprisingly you will find the CPS is as preoccupied with cuts, case loads, targets, reductions, budgets etc. etc., as any other organisation in today's target and performance culture.

Perhaps more than a hint is given here:

"...the conviction rate is about right. That is a good conviction rate. We do not have a set rate that we aim for, nor should we. If it dropped very much we would be concerned, but, equally, if it went up too high people would start asking questions about whether we were too risk-averse. We have to balance the cases that we bring in...."

Dear Freedom of Information Unit,

Response to this request is delayed. By law, Crown Prosecution Service should have responded.

Yours sincerely,

R. Skinner

Freedom of Information Unit, Crown Prosecution Service

Dear R. Skinner

We apologise that we have been unable to respond to your request at present; we are currently processing a number of requests. Miss Hardaker is away from the office for the remainder of this week but your request is receiving our attention and will be responded to in due course.

Kind regards

D. Martindale
Information Management Unit

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Dear Freedom of Information Unit,

This is a reminder that my request for review was made on 24 May 2013 and as yet this has not been addressed.

Yours sincerely,

R. Skinner

Freedom of Information Unit, Crown Prosecution Service

Dear Mr Skinner,

We have received your request for an internal review and apologise for the delay regarding this matter. The CPS is experiencing a very high work load at present, your request will be dealt with as soon as possible.

Yours sincerely,

Miss H Hardaker
Information Management unit

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Leonard Sharon, Crown Prosecution Service

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Skinner

Please find attached Mr Ian Rushton's response to your FOI request.

Regards.

Sharon Leonard
Senior PA
CPS Greater Manchester, Lancashire and Cumbria
North West Group

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Dear Ms Leonard,

I realise this FoI request has not proved useful, and will not, no matter how long it is pursued. However, the term "in the public interest" appears to cover a multitude of sins, in that it allows many criminals to get off "scot free" if they can be made to fall in that category.

Perhaps you may advise me as to whether I have an understanding of what "in the public interest" means when used in the context of "not being in the public interest" if used to rule out investigating or prosecuting a crime?

I will leave here an example of what I believe may be meant by the phrase:

There may be evidence that millions of pounds in charges have been defrauded by a private bailiff firm collecting outstanding council tax on behalf of local authorities.

A decision not to investigate/prosecute the crimes on the grounds that it would not be in the public interest, would not be, because of the benefit to the taxpayer (therefore the public) that the use of bailiffs brings.

If I have interpreted this correctly then the consequences must be that the state is facilitating criminals to benefit from the proceeds of crime and is justified because it has the majority support of the public.

I'd appreciate the CPS straightening out any misunderstanding if it thinks in any way my view is distorted.

Yours sincerely,

R. Skinner

Rushton Ian, Crown Prosecution Service

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Skinner,

Please see my response to your e-mail of 7^th September.

 

I.V.Rushton

Deputy Chief Crown Prosecutor

North West Area

CPS Greater Manchester

07775 937 916 

 

 

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Ron (Account suspended) left an annotation ()

R. Skinner,

I think this may be of interest to you.

http://www.scribd.com/doc/186590772/NELC...

"Re: Rossendales/North East Lincolnshire Council Fraud Allegations

In reference to your November 9, 2013 correspondence and the reasons given for not pursuing this matter, it appears to me that corruption must be rife within Humberside Police.

The evidence supplied the force has been indisputable and for the Economic Crime Unit to do nothing would seem it (along with North East Lincolnshire Council) is party to the theft of £millions from residents by Rossendales bailiffs......"

Dear Mr Rushton,

In light of your response in the attached with regards the example case being considered a very serious one, it would be interesting to know whether the CPS is aware that Police Forces are blatantly turning a blind eye to evidence of millions of pounds in charges been defrauded by private bailiff firms, abetted by local authorities.

This is just one example where Humberside Police have taken the decision not to Investigate allegations

(North East Lincs Council Bailiff contractor Fraud)

http://www.scribd.com/doc/155399034/NELC...
http://www.scribd.com/doc/155782614/NELC...

Humberside Police have taken the decision not to Investigate allegations

http://www.scribd.com/doc/186590772/NELC...

Yours sincerely,

R. Skinner

Rushton Ian, Crown Prosecution Service

Mr Skinner,
Thank you for your e-mail. I note your comments, but would again respectfully refer you to the Code for Crown Prosecutors and specifically the CPS's role .We are not an investigatory organisation, nor is it our role to regulate the police.

I.V.Rushton
Deputy Chief Crown Prosecutor
North West Area
CPS Greater Manchester
07775 937 916

show quoted sections

Dear Mr Rushton,

Of course you do not regulate the police, the police are unregulated, unless you could call investigating itself a form of regulation.

In light of your comments it is reasonable to assume there's a serious flaw in the system if each individual organisation operates in complete isolation from another on which it relies to function.

There seems in the circumstances, a need for the Police and perhaps the CPS to be by-passed to attain justice. How could this be achieved?

Yours sincerely,

R. Skinner

Dear Mr Rushton,

You may be interested in just how incompetently Humberside Police conduct its enquiries into allegations of fraud.

"Police Complaint Reply 04 February 2014"

http://www.scribd.com/doc/205346283/Poli...

Is there any wonder the CPS never gets the opportunity to prosecute crimes relating to the £millions that are stolen from UK residents in this regard?

Yours sincerely,

R. Skinner

Rushton Ian, Crown Prosecution Service

I am now out of the office until February 10th..

Neil Gilliatt (Account suspended) left an annotation ()

Rushton has stated that he will be out of his office until the 10th of February 2014: So is he lying?

Dear Mr xxxxxxxx,

I am writing to inform you of the outcome of the complaint you made on 24 November 2013 regarding the Forces decision not to investigate an allegation of Fraud.

Humberside Police is committed to providing a quality of service to all members of the public and I am grateful, therefore, that you have taken the trouble to bring this matter to Force’s attention. Accordingly, the matter causing you concern was recorded as an organisational issue and I was appointed to enquire into it.

I am the Detective Inspector in charge of the Economic Crime Unit and therefore this matter has been passed to me to deal with.

I am in receipt of a large amount of correspondence from you and Detective Sergeant Wood which I have examined in great detail. I am aware that your allegations are that of fraud against Rossendale’s bailiffs and the North East Lincolnshire Council.

I have also liaised with Detective Inspector Welton, who dealt with the same complaint you made to Humberside Police in 2009.

You may recall he visited you at your home and explained the reasons why your allegations were not of a criminal nature. [This statement is completely untrue]

In making the decision whether to investigate an allegation of fraud I have to bear in mind the Home Office guidelines documented in the circular number 47 of 2004.

The decision on whether or not to investigate an allegation of fraud and the resources to be devoted to any investigation rest solely with the police.

The police will only investigate in circumstances where there are good grounds to believe that a criminal offence has been committed. In some cases some form of preliminary inquiry may assist the police in determining whether the case is suitable for full investigation.

In making the decision the police will have regard to the resources available, government and local priorities, and the competing priorities of other fraud and criminal cases already under investigation.

I also have to consider whether it would be more appropriate for this matter to be referred to the appropriate regulatory body to deal with the allegations.

DS Wood carried out extensive research into your submission. He also met with members of the Council Tax Department at the North East Lincolnshire Council and has spoken with their counterparts at the Hull City Council.

The council have made no report of criminal wrongdoing by the bailiffs.

Therefore my decision still stands; Humberside Police will not be pursuing an investigation into this matter for the reasons outlined in DS Woods’s email dated 9th November 2013.

Please be aware that as your complaint refers to an organisational issue there is no right of appeal against the outcome of this process. This is in accordance with Paragraph 8A Schedule 3 of the Police Reform Act 2002.

Yours sincerely,

Christine Calvert

T/Detective Inspector 1487

Humberside Police Major Crime Unit, Hessle.

Neil Gilliatt (Account suspended) left an annotation ()

Dear Mr Wood
Re: Rossendales/North East Lincolnshire Council Fraud Allegations

In reference to your November 9, 2013 correspondence (see Annex A) and the reasons given for not pursuing this matter, it appears to me that corruption must be rife within Humberside Police.

The evidence supplied the force has been indisputable and for the Economic Crime Unit to do nothing would seem it (along with North East Lincolnshire Council) is party to the theft of £millions from residents by Rossendales bailiffs.

One would ask why such widespread crime is allowed to go unchallenged and might begin suspecting somewhere along the line, payment or benefit is being offered in exchange for a blind-eye being turned in favour of these criminals. Either that, or perhaps the police are explicitly instructed not to proceed with any investigation which may in any way interfere with tax collected by the state. If the latter applies, then I would expect this acknowledging so issues I intend to raise with the relevant government department will be better focused.

The Criminal Prosecution Service I believe is preoccupied with taking on cases that will, with almost certainty, lead to successful prosecution. Reaching favourable conviction rate targets then, are an obvious factor which would influence the cases taken on (or not), as well as cost considerations for keeping within budgets.

The way its operation is run however, would seem at odds with what was stated on national television by the deputy head of fraud at the CPS:

“People who commit fraud, in any walk of life, should know that the scale and technicality of a case is no barrier to bringing it to justice. At the heart of any complex fraud is a simple notion of dishonesty which is something that we can all understand......"

Whatever is behind why this theft is accepted, the question arises as to whether taxpayers are being defrauded by Humberside police in respect of a force obviously picking and choosing which laws are implemented.

Nothing in the responses indicates that the Economic Crime Unit has considered the evidence with a view to investigating, only that there has been a preference not to, as is evident with the reasons given.

Firstly it was contended that to prove fraud had taken place, it was necessary to demonstrate dishonesty beyond reasonable doubt. The court of appeal case, R v Ghosh [1982] EWCA Crim 2, was cited as the judgment defining dishonesty used in criminal prosecutions and was stated, without justification, that it was viewed that the allegation did not meet those requirements. Does this mean the function of the Crime Unit is not investigatory rather one acting solely on information fed it and only that which is sufficiently complete that would wipe up a case with no further enquiries?

There’s a sense that a standard “off the shelf” response has been given, possibly I would suspect, not without some influence from the local authority who in turn would likely to have been taken in by its bailiff contractor’s misinformation.

There is no obvious reason why the two stage test defined in the R v Ghosh case would fail. It was detailed in the submitted evidence in regards applying the redemption charge that in the case of Milton Keynes, it does apply the fee, but it must not be charged where no goods are removed, i.e., in accordance with the law. Lincoln City Council states it has an agreement with Rossendales bailiff not to apply the Header H fee – therefore No Lincoln residents incur the charge. Other authorities stated similar which would clearly signal to local authorities that the legality in applying the charge was in question.

However, where it would be indefensible to have claimed ignorance of the issues is in cases where it had been discovered an authority using more than one bailiff firm had disclosed, one, but not the other of its contractors charge the fee. South Gloucestershire Council, Northampton and Havant Borough Councils are examples of these.

The message that van attendance fees under Head C can not be applied unless goods have been levied should have similarly been conveyed to authorities that don’t comply with the law by the ones that do. When requested how many of the 400 imposed Van fees were applied on the same visit as a levy, South Gloucestershire Council replied “Zero”, adding that a Van fee is NOT applied unless a levy is already in place.

Again, where it would be indefensible to have claimed ignorance, Wrexham Borough Council when asked how many of the 3,864 imposed Van fees were applied in the same circumstances, the answer, in respect of 1,167 applied by one of its three bailiff contractors (Excel Enforcement), was:
“the amount would be zero as no Attendance to Remove fee is applied on the same visit as the levy”.

Presumably, its two other contractors, Rossendales and Jacobs do apply Attendance to Remove fees at the same time as levying (data withheld on costs grounds). The council therefore cannot claim ignorance when it is clearly policy for one of its contractors to act in accordance with the law by not applying the fee at the same time whilst its other two don't comply.

Although not detailed in the submitted documents, had there been preliminary enquiries made they would have led to authorities contracting more than one bailiff firm having different levels agreed with each.

One such authority is Kingston-upon-Hull, presently having three firms whose charges are agreed in contracts with each bailiff company and vary from £120 to £167 for a “Van fee”. Those companies are Equita, Rossendales and Jacobs; it is believed their standard charges for a van attendance are £120, £130 and £167 respectively. It’s known that Central Bedfordshire Council have, in respect of its three contractors, a spread of charges for this fee, where the highest is around three and a half times the level of the lowest.
Digging further would reveal some local authorities having contracts with agreed set rates in respect of “Van fees” which differ substantially between Council Tax recovery and Business Rates for which expenditure incurred in both cases is identical. In light of the law providing “reasonable costs and fees incurred”, it goes without saying that councils which allow this are encouraging their contractors to break the law.

Reminded that the fee is in respect of attending with the view to remove goods (but where none are taken), and the bailiff attends in regular transport, it is blatantly dishonest, which can be said also in cases where the fee increases in line with the amount owed. However, where contractors are permitted to add waiting time (neither a prescribed set fee nor reasonably incurred costs), there is no doubt councils are abetting theft, especially in circumstances where it accepts each firm applies different hourly rates for the same unlawful charge.

It seems beyond reasonable doubt that dishonesty lies at the heart of these contracts. Local Authorities don’t appear lawfully permitted to profit from enforcement, as is implied by the prescribed fees and those that specify "reasonable costs and fees incurred". It is required in law that private firms to which council’s outsource enforcement must apply the same statutory scale of fees as would the council if enforced in-house. Therefore the same Schedule of fees which provide only for the local authority to cover costs, when in the hands of the contractor, stretches to paying staff bonuses, keeping shareholders happy and creating millionaires.

A deeper look would also reveal that private firms working with the same fees schedule still turn round healthy profits despite contracts obliging them to provide services additional to those listed in the statutory fee schedule for which no payment is made.

Dishonesty is pushed to the extreme where local authorities, Harrow Borough Council for example, contractually obliges its bailiff firms not only to provide extra services free of charge but extends the greed to demanding a percentage of collected fees, thus breaking the law further in order to also profit the council.

It is beyond reasonable doubt that the councils are not ignorant to the fact that this element of costs will have to be met dishonestly with inflated fees (in excess of what is reasonably incurred). Similarly it is beyond reasonable doubt that councils will support their contractors imposing “Van fees” inappropriately in the same way they permit redemption fees to be charged unlawfully.

Secondly, the matter of head C charges (attendance with a vehicle) was omitted in the response and assuming was down either to apathy or more likely a misunderstanding of the issues. If the latter, and comments were made in connection with both Head H and C charges, then to be clear it was never disputed that to raise fees under head C, goods need physically removing and understood that in fact goods are not removed.

However, under head H (goods redemption) there was offered, in the Evans v South Ribble Borough Council case, a token endeavour to justify the view that no criminal offence was committed. The opinion relied on the fact (apparently) that seized goods in the custody of the law can either be left on the debtor’s premises or removed elsewhere. Though undoubtedly true and never disputed, regulation 45(4), when referred to in the provision under head H, makes clear Parliament’s intention was to refer to items removed, because of the phrase ending as follows: “...and the goods shall be made available for collection by the debtor”.

Thirdly, by entrusting North East Lincolnshire Council itself to report any criminal wrongdoing by its bailiffs, Humberside Police’s Economic Crime Unit has lost whatever shred of credibility it may have held. There is obviously a refusal to accept that officers within local authorities (in the case of NELC there is no doubt) are the most deceitful self interested, self serving corrupt species on the planet.

Fourthly, the Police have decided it has no good grounds to believe that a criminal offence has been committed, based (apparently) on guidance from the home office circular 47/2004. Apart from the communiqué being obviously geared towards home office budget cuts, a force wishing to turn a blind eye to any allegation of fraud could easily do so by fitting one or a number of get-out clauses incorporated into the publication.

The home office is no less than abetting these firms to defraud the public by giving the body responsible for preventing it, sole discretion to allow the criminals to continue without consequence. To hold evidence of the extent to which Rossendales are defrauding the public, for no challenge to be made, there must be a strong case against the officers allowing this, for misconduct in public office and perverting the course of justice.

Finally, a generic response would not be complete without passing the book. Perhaps a little more imaginative than simply stating “it’s a civil matter to be taken up with the local authority”, the advice was to refer the DISPUTE (no longer FRAUD ALLEGATIONS) to the appropriate regulatory body.

There is no dispute surrounding the interpretation of the law. The law has and is being broken by Rossendales, abetted by North East Lincolnshire Council and now Humberside Police. All three then are clearly responsible for millions of pounds being defrauded from householders; mostly it would seem who are struggling to pay their council tax.

It seems no reference number has been raised in connection with the reported crimes. There is no suggestion either that concerns I’ve raised have been properly dealt with, and may for all I know not even have gone through proper channels or officially recorded. To ensure that the matter does not remain covered up, details will be forwarded for the attention of the relevant government departments.

ANNEX A

Email correspondence detailing the reasons why Humberside Police are not pursuing an investigation into this matter:

From: Humberside Police (Economic Crime Unit)
To: Recipient
Sent: November 9, 2013
Subject: RE: North East Lincolnshire council / Rossendales (RESTRICTED - MANAGEMENT)

I have considered your submission regarding allegations of criminal conspiracy between North East Lincolnshire Council and Rossendales bailiffs.

To prove that a fraud offence has taken place, we need to demonstrate, beyond reasonable doubt, that a dishonest act has occurred. The definition of dishonesty used in criminal prosecutions has been laid out as per the case of R v Ghosh. I cannot see that your allegation meets those requirements.

With regard to the Schedule 5 charges connected with distress - it appears that the bailiffs do not have to physically remove the goods (Evans v South Ribble Borough Council 1992.)

I do not take the view that NELC are co-conspirators. Should they report any criminal wrongdoing by bailiffs we will consider the case on its merits.

Before undertaking a Fraud investigation, the Police must have good grounds to believe that a criminal offence has been committed (HO Circular 47/2004). I do not consider that to be the case in this instance.
For these reasons, Humberside Police will not be pursuing an investigation into this matter.

My position is that this is more of a question of interpretation of the regulations as set out in the Statutory Instruments that cover Council Tax Administration and Enforcement, and that your dispute should be referred to the appropriate regulatory body.

Regards

Detective Sergeant - Economic Crime Unit
Major Crime Unit - Tackling Serious & Organised Crime : Supporting Investigations

Yours sincerely

Fran Tzao left an annotation ()

An account of Humberside police, left to get on with its corruption by the IPCC is in the link in case you fancy a read.

http://www.consumeractiongroup.co.uk/for...

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