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Gardai Failing to Pursue Scammers

Mr Kevin Thompson of Insurance Ireland reports that its members handed over 167 files on fraudulent cases to the Gardai in 2016 for prosecution.  Claiming that the cases were “resting” with Gardai, with no indication if prosecutions have, or will be taken, he expressed his frustration at the “dysfunctionality of our personal injuries and legal framework in assessing these claims and bringing prosecutions”.

Peter Boland, of the Alliance for Insurance Reform, said businesses are besieged by fraudulent claims. The insurance industry in Ireland suffers a €20 million loss due to fraud each year.

There are numerous reasons why Gardai do not bring prosecutions and, similar to the DPP, they are unlikely to reveal these reasons.

When in-house investigations can lead to criminal sanctions it is important that the early steps in the investigation are conducted to a minimum standard. As with all investigations into potential wrongdoing, actions taken during the ‘golden hour’ (the period immediately following the incident) are crucial to successful outcomes. After this, the opportunities for identifying information and material evidence diminish significantly. The first chance to gather information and evidence about the incident may be the last. In addition, identification and collection of evidence requires rigorous quality assurance measures if it is to withstand the test of criminal or civil processes. It may never be identified or harvested; it may become contaminated or comprised from the outset. Awareness is required of these issues in every step of the process: from the employee in a business to whom the incident is first reported, through to the manager to whom they report, all the way to the report being passed to a professional investigator and onwards for civil or criminal determination.

In this context it is important that the insurance industry is doing everything possible to ensure that their Zero Tolerance policy is supported by robust mechanisms.

It is imperative that employees in small and medium enterprises are aware of the risks and measures. It is also imperative that investigators within the insurance industry have the capacity to identify, gather and manage evidence and conduct standardised, consistent investigations that will not compromise the integrity of a potential criminal prosecution.

Investigators need training in investigative principles and recent best practice thus ensuring a common practice and approach across the industry that is aligned to the standards and practices recognised and accepted within the Criminal Justice System.

A culture is required where criminal justice institutions and non criminal justice fact finders have mutual respect for each other and a collaborative approach to enhancing the quality of the criminal process. This is only possible with an awareness of minimum common standards, transfer of knowledge and capacity development.

Many in-house investigations will be initiated before criminal activity is suspected and, in some cases, will be alternative to criminal investigations. A clearly defined investigative process is at the heart of any compliance programme. In addition, an increased awareness of the investigation process and principles will enhance the in-house capacity of insurance companies to conduct investigations that confirm or repudiate claims and enable more robust defence of civil claims.  This requires a commitment to awareness, skill-based training and standard operating procedures.