Civil Fraud Solicitor
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Civil fraud is a legal action that can have severe consequences for small and medium-sized businesses.
If a company falls victim to civil fraud, it may result in lost assets and potential damage to trading viability. Alternatively, an organisation accused of fraud by an individual, another company, or a regulatory body faces financial and reputational implications.
Civil fraud is complex and goes far beyond the alleged plundering of tangible physical property and assets. The increasing globalisation and computerisation of business have led to a sharp increase in fraud claims.
Fraud can be sophisticated and hard to detect. It requires a correspondingly expert strategic response.
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Understanding Fraud Proceedings in the Civil Court
Fraud can be prosecuted in either the civil or the criminal courts.
Action in the civil courts may be started by an individual or a business to recover missing money or assets misappropriated through fraud.
Civil proceedings avoid the uncertainty of whether a prosecuting authority like the CPS (Crown Prosecution Service) or the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) will proceed with the case. A civil prosecution is driven entirely by the fraud’s victim.
In a civil fraud trial, the decision is made by a judge. The evidential burden is on the victim to prove the fraud based on “the balance of probabilities”. This is a lesser burden of proof than in a criminal fraud trial — so theoretically, fraud may be easier to prove in the civil courts.
The defendant must divulge evidence that may support the victim’s case during the proceedings – a process called disclosure. Obtaining information from the defendant is enforced by a system of court orders. Court orders can also be used to freeze the defendant’s assets. An asset freeze protects the victim’s position should their case prove successful and leave them better able to seek financial recovery. Freezing orders apply to assets held outside England and Wales.
In the civil courts, a successful outcome for the plaintiff can mean that the defendant is ordered to repay the money or assets taken and/or pay damages and compensation to the victim. Unlike criminal fraud, there is no sanction like imprisonment in civil fraud cases.
Civil fraud proceedings are usually driven by the motivation to recover assets or money and obtain compensation.
The victim of the fraud is responsible for the costs of prosecuting a civil fraud complaint. However, if the case is successful, the plaintiff may be able to obtain a court order for the defendant to pay all of the costs.
Understanding Fraud Proceedings in the Criminal Court
Criminal fraud is prosecuted by the relevant authorities in either the Magistrates’ Court or the Crown Court. The decision in a criminal fraud trial is made by a jury.
Criminal fraud is either prosecuted on behalf of the police by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) or another regulatory body. The police and SFO have much broader powers to investigate a possible fraud than a sole individual or business.
However, as a victim of alleged fraud, you have no control over how this process progresses or even whether a decision will be taken to prosecute. Fraud victims sit very much on the sidelines, and criminal fraud cases typically take much longer to resolve than their civil counterparts.
In a criminal fraud case, the prosecution is tasked with the burden of proof. It must be demonstrated ‘beyond all reasonable doubt’ that the defendant is responsible for the fraud. The high burden of evidential proof required is often behind the decision of whether or not to prosecute.
In a criminal fraud case, the Judge can impose a prison sentence of up to ten years plus an unlimited fine if the defendant is found guilty. But there is no financial compensation made for the victims of the fraud.
Unless you pursue a civil fraud action, you won’t be able to reclaim the value of any lost assets or file for damages.
Why You Need Specialist Advice if You’re Involved in a Civil Fraud Case
If your company is accused of fraudulent activity — and on the receiving end of a fraud claim — you need to take legal advice to protect your business and prepare for possible criminal prosecution.
If you suspect you are the victim of fraud — from inside or outside your business — protecting your assets and identifying the culprits will likely require strategic and expert input. Any advice you take should be both prompt and discreet.
The decision on how best to begin inquiries and whether to prosecute may hinge on complex investigations. Such investigations can be expensive and sometimes need to be covert.
The alternative to pursuing a fraud complaint is to write the losses off. Cutting your losses may end up being the most prudent economic decision based on the realities of a long, complicated and costly fraud enquiry and litigation.
How Helix Law Can Help
If your company is the victim of fraud or accused of fraudulent activities, you will need expert professional advice that is both prompt and highly strategic.
The implications for a business accused can be far-reaching in terms of reputational damage in addition to any material losses that may have occurred.
Deciding whether to pursue a civil is just one part of our specialist service for fraud victims. It’s a complex decision that often needs to be taken quickly to obtain the best possible outcome.
Helix Law looks at each fraud case on its merits and can act swiftly and strategically to protect our client’s interests.
Experience and expertise are essential in making a prompt and correct decision. We recognise that this decision sometimes needs to be made without the benefit of access to the complete picture.
Helix Law act for both the victims of fraud and those accused of fraud in civil proceedings.
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People frequently tell us that we’re approachable and offer great advice.
They also tell us most solicitors are hard to get hold of whereas we’re happy to listen. The reason for this is that we value long term relationships and we’re happy to speak with business people, to invest our time in understanding your business and whatever your concerns are. Only at that point can we understand whether we’re the right people to help you.