The UK's leading police force on fraud, the City of London police, has initiated a project consisting of hiring private law firms in order to pursue cyber criminal suspects and fraudsters in civil courts.
The force says that this scheme shall be a more effective way of countering fraud, which is currently the largest type of crime in the UK, estimated to cost £193 billion a year.
The rationale behind this experiment is that civil route will allow quicker access to the criminal's money and the victims will be repayed sooner. Private law firms will therefore be hired to attempt to seize the suspects' assets. Should the case be unsuccessful, the police can pursue further through the criminal courts.
Law firms, as wel as lawyers in the private sector would bear the risk of such actions and will in turn be compensated by means of the money recovered.
There is however unease with this scheme arising from the fact that the burden of proof is lower in civil courts, based on the balance of probabilites rather than the need to prove beyond reasonable doubt. This could lead to having an easy deterrent without the difficulty of proving the offence to a criminal standard.
Nonetheless, the victims will benefit from such a legal tool since money will be recovered quicker and with more ease. Also on a positive note is the fact that the criminal will be distanced from unlawfully acquired money and will have to resume normal life without any status in the community acquired through criminal activity. The police believe that criminal groups can be destabilised much faster by removing their assets rather than by pursuing them for numerous years.
The Office for National Statistics said that there have been over 5.8 million cybercrime incidents in the past year in England and Wales, which leads to commentators who are in favour of the scheme noting that even though this system will bring up ethical, political and philosophical questions, it is currently impossible for the police force to pursue this level of fraud.