11 August 2022

Opinion from Adrian Leopard & Co

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Crime down during the lockdown – right?
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Crime down during the lockdown – right?

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Have the police made the best of it?

One of the results of the lockdown was that certain petty crime like shoplifting appears to have dropped. Surprise, surprise, given that most shops were closed. Theft too from private houses seems to have been contained but then it is quite risky to go in and help yourself when the chances of the owners being at home are somewhat high.

We hear that police have taken advantage of this temporary societal change to go for other crimes, notably drugs. However the public were recently warned by the Home Secretary that digital crime is on the up and theft and the like have been growing. No doubt these crimes have had the shot in the arm that its perpetrators have also been on lockdown and, probably sitting at home wondering what to do, they thought that exercising their talents in this direction would suitably supplement their furlough salaries. I do not profess to know the detail of how these crimes are committed and happily thus far, I have not yet suffered any loss through this style of crime, probably because I take great care and do not trust anyone so take suitable precautions, like buying things on a credit card, not a charge card. If it looks fishy, then it probably is.

However, what I find particularly sad are the reports now that a new crime has emerged, and that we have learned about through whistle blowers. I refer to the alleged claiming of furlough monies whilst at the same time urging staff to work. This is a new crime because at no time during living memory has a furlough scheme like the current one been introduced. What it means is that some employers are claiming the monies under the scheme whilst at the same time getting their employees to continue to work.

This crime is potentially extremely easy to commit because the checks which have been put in place by HMRC are relatively de minimis – they have to be to enable the scheme to function at all because there is not time to carry out the usual due diligence and this is the crux of the matter – the government in bringing forward what many believe to be a very generous scheme is placing a huge element of trust in the business community in expecting it to operate the scheme honestly. Just like handling self assessment tax returns, the general public are under a legal duty to make their declarations fully and honestly and anyone who fails to meet the required standard of honesty risks prosecution and / or penalties.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer has made it clear to the country that employers are expected to make honest claims and that HMRC will in due time be carrying out suitable checks. Even at this earlier stage, the public has started to regard this particular crime with outrage – after all here we are again with unscrupulous individuals taking advantage of the crisis to make a profit to which they are not entitled at the taxpayer’s expense, a crisis where people are getting ill and many dying. There will of course be fall out when the culprits are caught, and I believe that they will be; not only will they have to repay the improperly paid money but perhaps there will be a system of penalties involved as well. Indeed, may be it will not just be employers who are taken to task – an employee knowingly receiving furlough funds and working as well is just as guilty and could equally face penalties. Is it worth it? All of this in turn may well precipitate further insolvencies and businesses going bust. Sadly such is our society that there will always be the bad apples in the barrel.

Adrian Leopard 13-05-20

Photo Dan Meyers

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Adrian Leopard & Company is the trading name of Alderney Offshore Ltd, a company registered in Alderney, Channel Islands number 1220.

Address P O Box 1027, Alderney GY9 3AS

Registered Office Seldomin, Longis Road, Alderney GY9 3YB.

Adrian Leopard & Co is represented in the UK by 3CL (UK) Ltd trading as Adrian Leopard Associates.

Telephone enquiries may be made on 05603-681921 or 01684-230360.

E Mail [email protected]

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