Fraud Office Faces `Uphill Struggle' to Convict Celebrities

Article excerpt

CELEBRITIES ARE less likely than ordinary members of the public to be convicted by juries, the head of the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has claimed.

Rosalind Wright said "people in the public eye" had a "mesmerising" effect on juries so it was an "uphill struggle" to convince courts of their guilt. This was particularly true of people in the "worlds of showbusiness and sport", she said.

In the early 1990s, the SFO had a reputation for failing to secure convictions in big cases.

Mrs Wright, a barrister, said many defendants prosecuted by the SFO were sophisticated criminals who used "blarney" to charm the jury. She called for juries to be abolished in serious trials and replaced by judges.

She is backed by many experienced crime lawyers. Malcolm Fowler, chairman of the Law Society's criminal law committee, said it was up to the judge to act as an "umpire" to ensure that the jury decided on facts and not on personalities.

"I suspect it [juries acquitting against the evidence] happens quite a lot. In one case [involving a famous sportsman] I never could quite work out what his defence was. But he was exchanging jokes with the crown prosecutor and in the end he got off," Mr Fowler said. …