Surge in dishonesty puts strain on courts

PUBLISHED : Friday, 16 October, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 16 October, 1998, 12:00am

A dramatic surge in fraud and corruption cases sparked by the economic downturn has left prosecutors under strain and short of resources, the Director of Public Prosecutions warned yesterday.

Grenville Cross SC issued a plea to the Government to substantially increase funds available to his team to enable them to properly combat the mounting workload.

'We certainly need more resources. We need more manpower. We make no bones about it,' he said.

He revealed that prosecutions for corruption had increased 38 per cent in the first nine months of this year compared with the same period last year.

Reports of serious fraud had leapt by 42 per cent.

'It happens when the economy gets into trouble. It is not a surprise,' Mr Cross said. 'Such developments place us under great strain. Our resources and our mettle are being sorely tested.' A bid by the Prosecutions Division for an increased budget had already been lodged with the Government.

'We have told them the increase we would like. Whether we get what we are asking for is perhaps in question,' Mr Cross said.

Consideration needed to be given by the government paymasters to a redeployment of resources to provide more prosecutors, he added.

'We hope the people in this position will be sympathetic, bearing in mind that high standards must be maintained,' he said.

Mr Cross made his comments when looking back on his first year as head of the division. He said he was proud of what had been achieved by the 230 prosecutors in the team and said standards were the highest he had seen during his 20 years with the department.

Mr Cross has introduced a package of reforms, particularly with regard to training, to meet past allegations of poor performance. 'They have responded superbly to the vision I set for them with commitment, professionalism and enthusiasm.' But the increased use of the Court of Final Appeal, now dealing with far more cases than the Privy Council used to handle, and the development of Chinese-language trials had contributed to the pressure on the division.