We take a look at Suella Braverman’s Telegraph article “We will stop the text scam misery”, and discuss how private prosecutions can support the government’s crackdown on fraud

As fraud lawyers, we have read with interest the recent article in The Telegraph featuring comments from Suella Braverman[1], the Attorney General, regarding the government’s plan to crack down on text message scams.

First and foremost, it is heartening to see that the government is taking the issue of fraud seriously and recognising the devastating impact that these scams can have on individuals and society as a whole. Text message scams have become increasingly prevalent in recent years, with fraudsters using increasingly sophisticated methods to trick unsuspecting victims out of their hard-earned money. In many cases, these scams can leave individuals out of pocket, with little or no hope of recovering their funds.

It is therefore encouraging to hear that the government is planning to take action to combat these scams. Ms Braverman explains that, this will involve a multi-pronged approach, including working with telecoms companies to improve their fraud prevention measures, increasing public awareness of the risks of these scams, and prosecuting those responsible for perpetrating them.

From a legal perspective, this last point is particularly important. In order to deter fraudsters from engaging in these scams, it is essential that they are held accountable for their actions. This means that law enforcement agencies must be given the resources they need to investigate and prosecute these cases effectively, and that the penalties for those found guilty of perpetrating these scams must be sufficiently severe to act as a deterrent. Where law enforcements do not or are not able to investigate or prosecute, the right to bring a private prosecution will continue to play an important role in the fight against fraudsters.

However, it is also important to recognise that prosecuting those responsible for these scams can be challenging. Fraudsters often operate from overseas, making it difficult to track them down and bring them to justice. In addition, they may use sophisticated techniques such as spoofing or phishing to make it appear as though their messages are legitimate, making it more difficult for victims to identify and report the scams. Although, as the scams become more sophisticated, so do the ways of catching them and bringing them to justice.

As a result, it is essential that the government’s approach to combating text message scams is both proactive and flexible, and that the constitutional right to bring a private prosecution is supported by government.

How can private prosecutions support the crack down on fraud?

The fight against fraud is a continuous battle, and as fraudsters continue to evolve and adapt their tactics, it can be challenging for law enforcement agencies to keep up. This is why private prosecutions may provide an answer to the issues arising in combating fraud.

Private prosecutions, as the name suggests, are legal proceedings that are initiated by private individuals or organisations rather than by a public prosecutor or the state. They offer a valuable alternative to traditional state prosecutions, particularly in cases where the state may be reluctant or unable to take action.

In the context of fraud, private prosecutions can be an effective tool for holding fraudsters accountable for their actions. They can be used to pursue cases where the state may not have the resources or expertise to investigate or prosecute, or where the state may be reluctant to take action for all manner of reasons.

One of the key advantages of private prosecutions is that they can be brought quickly and efficiently. Unlike state prosecutions, which can be subject to delays and bureaucracy, private prosecutions can be initiated promptly.

Of course, private prosecutions are not without their challenges. They can be expensive and time-consuming, and the burden of proof rests entirely on the private prosecutor. That is why they require a significant amount of legal expertise.

However, despite these challenges, private prosecutions can provide an effective alternative to traditional state prosecutions, particularly in cases involving fraud. They offer a flexible, efficient, and tailored approach to prosecuting fraudsters, and can be a valuable tool in the ongoing fight against fraud. While private prosecutions may not be suitable for every case, they offer an important alternative to traditional state prosecutions, and should be considered as part of any comprehensive fraud prevention strategy.

Ashley Fairbrother

[1] https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2023/05/02/suella-braverman-we-will-stop-text-scam-misery/