Categorized | Criminal Justice, Law Updates

Tagging contracts fraud investigation

Tagging contracts fraud investigation

Last Thursday the increasingly beleaguered Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling, came to the Commons with a sorry tale to tell. He was flanked by the attorney general, Dominic Grieve, probably for moral as well as legal support.

The subject was overpayments in the Ministry of Justice’s electronic monitoring contracts with G4S Care and Justice Services and Serco Monitoring. “This has included instances where our suppliers were not in fact providing electronic monitoring” he told Members. “It included charges for people who were back in prison and had had their tags removed, people who had left the country, and those who had never been tagged in the first place but who had instead been returned to court. There are a small number of cases where charging continued for a period when the subject was known to have died. In some instances, charging continued for a period of many months and indeed years after active monitoring had ceased.”

Labour’s Sadiq Khan said: “To the lay public, that appears to be straightforward fraud: obtaining property by deception.”

Grayling went on to say: “Let me deal with each company in turn. Serco, which is one of the Government’s biggest and most important suppliers, has agreed in full to a forensic audit. It has also agreed to withdraw from bidding for the £3bn next-generation tagging contract.”

“Let me now turn to G4S” he continued. “We put the same proposal for a further detailed forensic audit to G4S last night. It has rejected that proposal…Given the nature of the findings of the audit work so far and the very clear legal advice that I have received, I am today asking the Serious Fraud Office to consider whether an investigation is appropriate into what happened in G4S and to confirm to me whether any of the actions of anyone in that company represent more than a contractual breach… Furthermore, we will be commencing forensic audits of all existing contracts that the Department has with G4S.”

The amount of money involved is quite staggering. According to the ‘Guardian’, G4S’s contracts with the Ministry of Justice together are worth £5.14bn over their lifetime, or about £274m a year. The Home Office contracts are worth a further £301.2m over their lifetime and those with the police £283.8m, making a total of £585m. Serco’s overall prison, probation and welfare-to-work contracts in Britain are estimated to account for close to £300m. The overpayments amount to “tens of millions of pounds” admitted Grayling in a very conservative estimate. They will almost certainly equate to the money being squeezed like blood out of the legal aid system.

The trouble is that the two firms are the major private players in criminal justice privatisation and it is hard to see how any further large-scale outsourcing police, probation or prison project can succeed without some sort of involvement by them.

What is alarming is that G4S is involved in contracts to take over the delivery of a wide range of services previously carried out by the police. These include responsibility for investigating crimes, patrolling neighbourhoods and even detaining suspects. G4S is also reported to be a potential bidder for PCT contracts.

According to the ‘New Statesman’, “the future could be one in which suspects are apprehended by G4S investigators, transported by G4S security, detained by G4S officers and imprisoned in G4S jails, at each stage represented by G4S lawyers.” This at a time when G4S is under criminal investigation, with their own employees possible detainees. Though with G4S’s track record they would probably be allowed to escape.

One thing is certain. The British criminal justice system is not in safe hands.

This post was written by:

- who has written 460 posts on Upper Case – The Anya Legal Journal.

Mike Gribbin is a retired Civil Servant with wide experience, including the drafting and implementation of Parliamentary legislation and regulations. He is the editor of “Criminal Offences Handbook”, a uniquely comprehensive guide to more than one thousand ways to fall foul of UK criminal law. He is Editor of the Upper Case Legal Journal and has been writing blog posts for the past eight years.

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