29 SEPTEMBER 1984, Page 22

Silent sufferers

The biggest victims of financial fraud do not seem to have any ideas about the way their exploiters should be prosecuted and tried — or, if they have, are too shy to put them forward. Lord Roskill will not be hearing from them. With the strongest political backing, he is inquiring into the way financial fraud is now handled, by the police, the prosecuting services, and the courts. Ministers know that, as matters now stand, colossal and brazen thefts go unpunished, provided the perpetrators use the right weapons, obfuscation among them. Asking for evidence to reach him this month or next, Lord Roskill has already heard from Lloyd's of London. Without going so far as to ask for the abolition of jury trial for financial fraud, Lloyd's point out how difficult it is for present-day juries to understand such cases. Counsel for the defence — and many defendants seem, for one reason or another, to be able to afford the best cannot be relied upon to make matters easier. Lloyd's also testifyto their relations with the Director of Public Prosecutions. It is no secret that Ian Hay Davidson, Lloyd's brisk chief executive, is sometimes impa- tient with the DPP's pace. The Stock Exchange's evidence, still in draft, follows shortly. No evidence at all, though, from the Committee of London Clearing Bank- ers, representing the High Street banks, or from the British Insurance Association or the Life Offices Association, representing the insurance companies. 'Good Lord,' says a stockbroker, 'if you tot up the amount of credit-card fraud every year, and compare it with the last 50 years in the Stock Exchange, they're still miles ahead.' It is a pity, or worse than that, to miss the chance Lord Roskill offers — and not, quite, too late for second thoughts.