Individuals or groups of individuals make illegal use

The word "fraud" is an "umbrella" term for a number of offences. Indeed, white-collar crime occurs when individuals or groups of individuals make illegal use of their occupational position for personal advantage and harm others or their own organisation. In order to discuss the above statement, it is essential to focus on the many offences under fraud and their individual definitions. The first point to consider is the meaning of 'crime' and it's relevance to the issues of this subject whilst critically evaluating the substantive law and its effects on contemporary life.

'Crime' may be defined as, an act, omission or conduct which contravenes the law leaving it open to prosecution and is punishable following conviction. No liability is placed upon an involuntary action (Hill v. Baxter [1958]1) however; a person is liable if a duty of care is omitted. See Pittwood (1902)2. Having said this, the existence of 'white-collar crime' questions the way in which crime is defined and treated by the criminal Justice system. White-collar crimes3 typically refer to a type of crime committed by professionals using deception, as opposed to violent crimes that involve force.

Generally fraud may be defined as the use of deception with the intention of obtaining an advantage, avoiding responsibility or causing loss to another party. The terms 'fraud4' and 'white-collar crime' are both used to portray the difference between offences committed by 'lower class' people and those higher up in the socio-economic class. It could be said that the distinction between the both groups of criminals is that persons of the upper socio-economic class are richer and have higher IQ's and therefore do not need to commit crime.

Although a large majority of crimes committed by 'upper class' criminals are undetected, if prosecuted they may not be convicted, it could be said that this is due to the influence of class bias or prejudice sometimes adopted by the Courts. For this reason it may well be argued that the more highly regarded a person is by society, the more they should be punished by the Law as they make the choice to go against it Many academics share the view that the word 'crime' is too emotive for the cases that do not always reach criminal proceedings.

In their arguments, Reiss and Biderman preserve the concept of the white-collar offence without using the term 'crime': White-collar law violations are those violations of law to which penalties are attached and that involve the use of the violator position of significant power, influence, or trust in the legitimate economic or political institutional order for the purpose of illegal gain, or to commit an illegal act for personal or organisational gain. (1980) 'We can only refer to crime when criminal sanctions have been applied. ' Tappan, P. W. (1947) 'Who is the Criminal? 


The meaning of deception comes from s. 15 (4) of the Theft Act 1968; "Any deception (whether deliberate or reckless) by words or conduct as to fact or law, including deception as to the present intentions of the person using the deception or any other person" The Theft Act 1968 created five offences of obtaining5 by deception, the most significant of which are obtaining property by deception (s. 15) and obtaining a pecuniary advantage6 by deception (s. 16) see Lambie [1982]7. There is also an offence of making off without payment under the 1978 Act but it does not require deception.

Sections 15 and 16 of the Theft Act 1968 provide that: "A person who by any deception dishonestly obtains property belonging to another with the intention of permanently depriving the other of it commits an arrestable offence". "A person who by any deception dishonestly obtains for himself or another any pecuniary advantage commits an arrestable offence". The deception offences do have some elements in common, they all require deception and there is a casual link between the obtaining, the deception and dishonesty (Ghosh [1982]8), this link is crucial.

A case which illustrates the lack of a casual link is Collis-Smith [1971]9. The accused had petrol put into the tank of his car, he then falsely stated that his firm would pay. He was not guilty because the deception came after the obtaining and he did not obtain by deception. The decision in this case was followed in Coady [1996] Crim LR 518 (CA). The effect of these judgments is that the defendant is not guilty if the victim did not rely on the deception or if the deception was not operative on his/her mind.

Deception can be expressed or implied, for example wearing a police uniform R v. Nabina [2000]; it is therefore arguable that the decisions in Collis-Smith and Coady are incorrect due to the fact that there is an implied representation that the petrol taken by a person will be paid for when he puts it into his tank. (R v. Laverty [1970]10) However, the Courts recognise that a persons actions 'tells' the victim they are authorised thus it is a lie.

Deception can only be operative on the human mind as you cannot 'deceive' a machine; this is illustrated by the case of Davies Flackett [1973]11 where the defendant drove out of a car park without paying while a stranger held up the barrier. The Theft Acts in 1968 and 1978 did not take account of technology and things to come, for example credit cards, cheques or the internet. MPC v. Charles [1977] AC 177 In the occurrence of obtaining by deception, the key question is whether representation was made and if so, whether it was made falsely, both these aspects are to be determined by the jury. See Adams [1993].

12 There is no liability for deception if it is too remote from the obtaining of property. See R v. Button [1990]13 Although there are legal provisions under which fraud is prosecuted; no commonly accepted definition of fraud exists; many of the offences referred to as fraud are covered by the Theft Acts of 1968 and 1978. The term is used to describe such acts as deception, bribery, Money laundering, forgery, corruption, theft, conspiracy, embezzlement and false representation.