Would a Cartel Offence Prosecution be a VHCC for Legal Aid?
Prof Cosmo Graham, from the University of Leicester, just posed me that very interesting question.
The #OpCotton ruling yesterday stayed a large City fraud prosecution because the defendants could not find Counsel willing to represent them at the reduced VHCC (Very High Cost Cases) rates now offered in Legal Aid cases. Many, see for instance David Allen Green in the FT and Alan Wagner in the New Statesman, have pointed out this may mean that VHCC cases are effectively unprosecutable in the UK. I don’t know if a Cartel Offence prosecution would normally fall into this VHCC class.
I my work I have argued that cartel cases would not be as factually complex as frauds; largely because the parties don’t disguise their activities through complex financial arrangements which need forensic accounting to unpick. A cartel will rely on secrecy, likely blown apart by a leniency application, rather than attempts to cloak their activity in the false trappings of legitimacy.
The removal of the dishonesty element should, in theory, also make a prosecution simpler in future.
This is something that I’ll investigate, but, as ever, Cosmo has come up with a fascinating question which could turn out to be another obstacle in the UK’s, already troubled, path toward cartel criminalisation.