WORKING WITH FORENSIC ACCOUNTANTS CAN BENEFIT LAWYERS

WORKING WITH FORENSIC ACCOUNTANTS CAN BENEFIT LAWYERS

WORKING WITH FORENSIC ACCOUNTANTS CAN BENEFIT LAWYERS AND THEIR CLIENTS Forensic accountants are usually instructed on behalf of Defendants to consider the report prepared by the Crown Prosecution Service. These reports usually claim that a Defendant has benefited from a particular crime and intend recovering the amount of benefit from the Defendant’s known assets. Increasingly forensic accountants are being brought in at the early stages of proceedings by law firms acting for the defendants. The regulatory and complex crime team at Ison Harrison Solicitors have found that using a forensic accountant often results in favourable results, particularly in cases involving tax, fraud, false accounting, money laundering or confiscation proceedings. Ian Anderson, Head of Complex Crime said: “Having an independent expert presenting evidence in a report or in person is a powerful way to persuade the prosecution, juries and judges that the defence case is stronger than the prosecution case. “At Ison Harrison Solicitors we have worked with forensic accountants for many years.” According to Manchester based forensic accountant Lennie Harris, swift action by an experienced forensic accountant can be beneficial to the client and the lawyer. Harris explained: “In our role as forensic accountants, we critically examine the very basis of the prosecution’s claim. We produce a report which will isolate examples of legitimate trading which did not accrue from the proceeds of crime, but have nevertheless been included in the claim made by the Prosecution. Initial assessments made by the prosecution are often inflated. “We use our financial skills to examine the evidence presented which relate to the defendant’s assets and adjust the figures based on the available evidence. Our early involvement as forensic accountants usually means that both the figure for benefit and the claimed assets are substantially reduced in favour of the defendant.” According to Lennie Harris, an early partnership between lawyer and forensic accountant is beneficial to all parties. When he is approached directly by defendants he can often recommend the selection of the right law firm for the particular case. With 45 years experience with accountancy giants PWC he believes he brings to the table and understanding of process including debt management, tax and insolvency, often settling cases without prosecution. “We make a vital and positive contribution to the defendant’s case and we can help law firms to expand their portfolio,” he confidently claimed. Harris explains that in one case, Regina v Smith, a defendant pleaded guilty to possessing a Class B drug with intent to supply. He said: “I prepared a report in conjunction with the appointed solicitors and barristers to address the issues raised by the prosecution. The prosecution had focused on assumptions that all the cash credits in the defendant’s bank accounts had been derived from his criminal activity.” Harris reviewed the case papers and the defendant’s s16 and 18 papers, interviewed him and took his instructions. He managed to establish that many of his transactions were properly accounted for and not, as suggested by the prosecution, proceeds of crime. He had worked in the ‘gig’ economy over many years and had taken on a number of ‘cash-in-hand’ jobs. “Although my client had limited paperwork I verified through HMCR that he had legitimate sources of income and had been receiving working tax credits,” he continued. “Although some of the figures were difficult to quantify as many years had passed, I agreed a value with the court and assisted it with its deliberations to the benefit of my client.” Consequently Lennie Harris was able to reduce the benefit of £77,000 suggested by the prosecution to £18,000 with a realisable amount of £15,000 from the available assets, the amount he eventually had to pay to satisfy the claim. Harris concluded: “This kind of exercise isn’t an exact science but I was able to attribute what I believe was a fair value to the information and witness evidence. Importantly it made the job of the defendant’s solicitor and barrister much easier and increased the chances of a successful outcome for their client.” Further information the benefits of legal firms using forensic accountants is available from Lennie Harris, phone 07469 859 854, or vist www.hcaconsultancy.com