Nicola Sharp of financial crime specialists Rahman Ravelli expects at least some rise in the statistics in 2021.

Research has shown that 2020 saw a steep drop in the number of fraud cases heard in UK courts.

KPMG's annual fraud barometer, which records fraud cases of £100,000 or more that go to court, reported that there were 180 such cases in 2020 - a fall of 51% on the 2019 total of 369.

The total value of the alleged fraud involved in such court cases fell from £1.1 billion in 2019 to £724 million last year, which was a reduction of more than a third. With the 2020 figure including one film piracy case which accounted for £200 million on its own, it is clear how big an effect Covid-19 restrictions had on the efficiency of the courts last year.

The pandemic is responsible for the falling number of fraud cases going to court, rather than any drop in economic crime. There is a backlog of cases in the court system.

While it is clear that Covid-19 has had a noticeable impact on the prosecution of fraud, it is hoped that the introduction of Nightingale Courts will reduce the case backlog. HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) has recently confirmed an additional 14 courts, with the aim of 60 Nightingale Courts by the end of March.

It is to be expected that the number of cases of fraud reaching court will increase in 2021. Any increase in the volume of fraud - including any linked to the pandemic - will, in turn, further increase the number of fraud cases being prosecuted. What is unclear at this stage, however, is exactly when there will be a return to the numbers of fraud court cases that were being recorded before the pandemic had such an impact on the legal system.

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