Fragmented Basics 2: Fibs

Well, looking at the FTSE and currency markets has certainly proven to be better done by the method I outlined in the last blog. It’s quite fun predicting the ups and downs, and accurate too. The big fun will come on Thursday when the next GDP quarter is released by the ONS.

Anyway. There’s still a lot of turmoil and I’m going to steer clear of my views on it once again, because I want to try and get to grips with something in a sensible way that will cut through the constant bickering.

I will make a full cough though: I’m not really in the mood for this right now but needed to write something and will probably re-write it later when the personal dust has settled…

“Fib (Noun) – A lie, typically an unimportant one: why did you tell him such a dreadful fib?

Mid 16th century: perhaps a shortening of obsolete fible-fable ‘nonsense’, reduplication of fable.”

The kind of fib I’m thinking about here isn’t neccessarily an unimportant one, because I’m thinking about fraud, which is an indictable offence – meaning it’s serious.

Now, to be clear, I’m not talking about guilt or innocence here, these are issues for the courts. I restrict myself purely to reasonable suspicion – which basically means it might have happened and someone should have a proper look and see if there is anything for the courts to decide.

As a curiosity, did you know that anyone can arrest someone for an indictable – serious – offence?

It’s true. Under Section 24a of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 it says:

“A person “other than a constable” may arrest without a warrant anyone who is in the act of committing an indictable offence; or whom the person has reasonable grounds to suspect is committing an indictable offence”

Of course, there are sensible conditions attached, like only do if it a constable practicably (it’s a made up police word) can’t, and they must be causing loss or damage to property or harm, and so on.

Just one of those little things worth remembering in life.

Anyway, back to fibs, it’s one of our laws I’m interested in, and you can read the whole act at the Legislation website.

For now I’m interested in is Section 2, Fraud by False Representation, which is defined as follows:

‘Fraud by false representation

(1)A person is in breach of this section if he—

(a)dishonestly makes a false representation, and

(b)intends, by making the representation—

(i)to make a gain for himself or another, or

(ii)to cause loss to another or to expose another to a risk of loss.

(2)A representation is false if—

(a)it is untrue or misleading, and

(b)the person making it knows that it is, or might be, untrue or misleading.

The best thing to do is break it down into elements – often called Points to Prove.

We’ll deal with the easy bits first, because they are contained within the wording of the act itself, which is helpful because it’s not ambiguous, as concepts of law can often be.

Representation:

(3)“Representation” means any representation as to fact or law, including a representation as to the state of mind of—

(a)the person making the representation, or

(b)any other person.

(4)A representation may be express or implied.

(5)For the purposes of this section a representation may be regarded as made if it (or anything implying it) is submitted in any form to any system or device designed to receive, convey or respond to communications (with or without human intervention).’

I could go into a number of long winded explanations of representations but I’m going to stick with a relevant topic: The big red bus.

bus

While it doesn’t explicitly say that there will directly be a change between where the money is paid, it implies it. The figure itself is a plain statement presenting itself expressly as a fact. In a variety of articles and interviews, these express and implied representations were repeated by politicians as though they believed them and other people should too. In part this captures the whole ‘state of mind’ element, too.

Gain and Loss:

Again, these are quite helpfully explained in the Act at Section 5, which avoids ambiguity.

‘(1)The references to gain and loss in sections 2 to 4 are to be read in accordance with this section.

(2)“Gain” and “loss”—

(a)extend only to gain or loss in money or other property;

(b)include any such gain or loss whether temporary or permanent;

and “property” means any property whether real or personal (including things in action and other intangible property).

(3)“Gain” includes a gain by keeping what one has, as well as a gain by getting what one does not have.

(4)“Loss” includes a loss by not getting what one might get, as well as a loss by parting with what one has.’

An example of a temporary loss – any subsequent recovery being irrelevant – could be something like the billions lost on the FTSE between Friday and Monday (it was trillions, across the whole world):

2016-06-28Not forgetting that you can be exposed only to the risk of loss, it’s poignent to look at the overwhelming opinions of experts, who pointed to loss but were dismissed with the slogan “we’ve had enough of experts”…

An example of a gain could be a promotion, taking an extreme example as being the leap from MP to Prime Minister, which looks like this according to Parliament:2016-06-28 (1)

Say that the loss or the gain was directly attributable to something like the bus that would, in essence, be a Fraud.

There’s a little more to pick at.

Dishonestly:

This wanders into spooky sounding ground, because there is a legal test. It comes from the hauntingly named case of R V Ghosh. It’s not that bad, though.

It boils down to a two question test for the jury to decide – yes, the court, as opposed to the police – though it’s prudent to at least have it addressed before trying to bring a prosecution.

1. Was the act one that an ordinary decent person (normally considered to be the ubiquitous ‘The man on the Clapham omnibus’) would consider to be dishonest (the objective test)? If so:

2. Must the accused have realised that what he was doing was, by those standards, dishonest (the subjective test)?

It’s worth stating the obvious here and saying that it is not essential for a person to admit that they acted in a way that they knew to be dishonest, it is probably enough that they knew others would think their behaviour was dishonest, or that they thought that what they were doing was ‘wrong’. (Let’s face it, the day real criminals start admitting things, we can save a whole lot of money on the court system).

I think, if we stay topical, and stick to the battle bus, we can answer question number one without even inserting a diagram or picture: people were horrified at the discovery it wasn’t true. Nonetheless, I quite like this video:

So that would leave us with question two.

Well, let’s have a look elsewhere. Michael Gove is as good a person as any to set this question against. Firstly he’s an elected public official and in Parliament they have a code of conduct. And then to consider is that he’s a highly educated man, former Times journalist and currently the Secretary of State for Justice. So yeah, it’s pretty fair to surmise that he has a good idea of what’s right and wrong…

I suppose another way to look at all this is, albeit more abstract, is to ponder whether you can commit fraud by causing a loss or risk of it to a bunch of countries in order to make financial gains through beneficial trade deals.

I suppose that would look like A deceives B, exposing them to loss, in order to expose C to loss and enable A to make gains from C. If A is the leave campaigners (who aren’t government, so it’s not an act of the country, but individuals), B is the electorate and C are the other nations of the EU, that’s one whopping fraud.

Far be it from me to say it, but it looks like there are reasonable grounds to suspect – bearing in mind that this is purely as a layman – that a group of politicians could potentially commit the offence of Fraud without too much trouble.

If I’m honest, I’m fairly happy to say that I think some have caused a loss by making a mispresentation and that they knew better.And that by leading a campaign with such vigour, knowing the risks of exposure to loss, they meant to do it. (They intended to win after all).

I guess the only question is who investigates things like this? The police are unlikely to. The SFO? Who even knows if it still exists. The NCA? Lynne Owens is a strong leader, so possibly. Best chance anyone would have.

I suppose many would argue that it’s not for the police to get involved in politics. Normally I’d agree, because what happens in parliament is subject to privilege and therefore exempt from the law, in general. However, the leave campaign wasn’t a parliamentary one, not in that sense. No privilege issues are attached to public statements and media interviews. Personally, I don’t see a problem with nicking criminals. Never really been put off by status or position, either.

And police action wouldn’t change the vote. All that would happen is that a potential offence would get investigated and, if proven, justice served. Aside from that business would go on as normal.

Failing institutional intervention, of course, the loss and gain question is open ended at the moment, so perhaps it will end up being a member of the public to do the deed…the law says they can if no one else is available, after all.

Alternatively, we could just accept that power comes with no responsbility of any kind…hell, we could even let a fraudster be the Prime Minister. Why not?

Anyway, I started of thinking of fibs, you know, harmless little lies. I don’t think this is anywhere near that trivial…

I suppose, really, I’ve just concluded that we have good laws. I Just wish someone would start to use them.

 

 

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