Last year the Government identified 600,000 "priority cases" where victims required compensation, and highlighted another 1.5 million cases that would have to be dealt with. There can be little doubt that mis-selling by some firms was systemic and endemic. The very scale of the problem rebuts any assumption that the misappropriation of an estimated pounds 4bn from vulnerable consumers resulted only from a few stupid salespersons or rotten apples.
It challenges belief that companies (the suspects) are being given responsibility for deciding whether policies have been mis-sold. The Financial Services Authority says it has not pursued any criminal matters because, in the cases examined, no evidence had been found of "prior intent".
In English law, however, all sorts of serious assaults, sex crimes, and property offences are convictable upon proof of recklessness. The Financial Services Act criminalises misleading statements made dishonestly or "recklessly" by someone selling an investment product.
DR GARY SLAPPER
The Law Programme
Open University, Milton Keynes