Court delays 'deeply concerning' as Scotland records just a single high-profile fraud case in 2020

Scotland has recorded just a single high-profile fraud case for the whole of 2020 as the pandemic disrupts the country’s justice system.

Courts throughout the UK have been impacted by the fallout from the coronavirus crisis.

The latest KPMG Fraud Barometer reveals one case of alleged fraud, valued at more than £100,000, in the past 12 months. In comparison, Scottish fraud cases in 2019 were valued at more than £15.6 million.

The country’s only high-profile fraud case involved a Crown Office worker who was in charge of evidence at the Procurator Fiscal’s office. The 34-year-old was jailed for three years and nine months after it emerged she had stolen nearly £92,000 and drugs worth more than £147,720 between 2011 and 2019.

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Across the UK, 2020 saw a record fall in the value and volume of alleged fraud cases heard in the courts, according to the latest barometer report.

Annette Barker, head of forensic at KPMG in Scotland, said: “Six months ago we reported no high-value cases of fraud going through Scotland’s court system. At the time we said the country could witness a tsunami of cases.

“It’s deeply concerning to see that court delays and closures have effectively shut down the criminal justice system as it attempts to deal with a suspected increase in fraud, driven by people who’ve taken advantage of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Naturally, the pandemic has created a profound degree of uncertainty and challenge, so some cases may not have been reported and there could be delays in aspects of information being shared with the public. However, it goes without saying that 2021 will be an incredibly challenging year for the Scottish courts as they try to wrestle with a major backlog in cases.

“Regardless of the lack of cases coming to courts it is important for individuals and organisations to remain vigilant in their fight against fraud.”

Roy Waligora, head of UK investigations at KPMG UK, added: “As we reflect on the 2020 fraud data, the brewing backlog of untried cases continuing to build up like water behind a dam cannot be ignored.

“We know that disruption and uncertainty make for inviting economic components for fraudsters.”

The barometer is the longest running study of its kind in the UK.

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