White collar prosecutions up for first time in five years
Over 600,000 fraud reports in same period but only a 1 per cent increase in prosecutions recorded
The government must ensure police and enforcement agencies have the necessary resources to meet an increase in fraud offences, lawyers have argued.
There were 9,401 prosecutions for white collar crime in 2015, up from 9,343 in 2014, representing the first increase in five years.
Though the increase is relatively small, the figure remains significantly lower than the number of prosecutions five years ago, when over 11,000 prosecutions were brought.
The number of cybercrime prosecutions is also on the rise, with 61 recorded in 2015, up from 45 in 2014 - an increase of 36 per cent.
Barry Vitou, a partner and head of global corporate crime at Pinsent Masons, said that any increase in prosecutions for economic crime represented a gain for the authorities and should be welcomed.
'Organisations fighting white collar crime now need to ensure momentum does not slip - and that they build on the initial improvement,' he said.
'Cybercrime is a fast-growing threat and should remain a focus. The online capabilities of fraudsters are increasing and evolving all the time.
'The fact that prosecutions continue to rise in this area is promising - and indicative of the efforts the authorities are making to get to grips with tackling what is a highly complex issue.'
In the last year, 617,618 fraud offences were recorded, up 4 per cent on the previous year. Of these, 224,683 offences were recorded via Action Fraud, the national fraud and cybercrime reporting centre, and 392,936 via Financial Fraud Action UK and Cifas, fraud prevention services.
'The government needs to ensure the police and other relevant agencies have the resources they need to meet the challenge,' added Vitou.
Organisations involved with tackling white collar crime saw a number of high-profile successes over the last year.
The Serious Fraud Office's (SFO) first conviction of an individual for the manipulation of LIBOR followed Tom Hayes's trial and the imprisonment of Magnus Peterson for a high value fraud via his hedge fund, Weavering Capital.
Anne-Marie Ottaway, a former SFO prosecutor and now Pinsent Masons partner, added: 'The convictions secured over the last year are encouraging - and the authorities involved should be praised for pursuing and convicting white collar offenders.
'However, there is no room for complacency, with many thousands of white collar criminals continuing to evade justice each year.'