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Kiwi attitude a barrier to fraud detection

29 June 2018

This article was prepared by the New Zealand Parole Board.

Fraud and its many complexities were at the forefront of discussion at the New Zealand Parole Board conference, which heard a “she’ll be right attitude” hampers detection of the crime in this country.

The Serious Fraud Office’s general counsel, Paul O’Neil, made the observation as a guest speaker at the Board’s conference in May.

He said financial illiteracy, an ageing population, and complacency in workplaces, were among the so-called “growing vulnerabilities” for uncovering fraud in New Zealand.

“There is a complacency, within private and public sector organisations, that fraud – and in particular corruption – just doesn’t occur. That probably conflates two things – one, it’s a failure to appreciate what corruption looks like, but the other thing is it’s a bit of a she’ll be right attitude,” said Mr O’Neil.

The Serious Fraud Office mounts about a dozen prosecutions a year on average but says there are challenges to overcome.

“There is a reluctance to report corruption in a New Zealand context and … people do take advantage of that,” Mr O’Neil said.

Board member Alan Hackney, a clinical psychologist, responded with his insights on the common traits of fraudsters. He pointed out that most tend to be older people with no criminal history, who believe they are not harming anyone, and who have almost no opportunity to reoffend.

Assessing the reoffending risk of a white collar criminal falls to the New Zealand Parole Board and is no easy task, according to the Board’s chairperson Justice Warwick Gendall QC.

“Globally, there are very few specialised tools for determining the statistical risk of reoffending in fraud cases, particularly by serious recidivist female fraudsters. But risk assessment is about much more than using statistical tools,” he said.

The Board makes its risk assessments with the benefit of expert input from forensic psychologists, treatment providers, Corrections officers, and others.

“We take into account the seriousness of the offending, alongside a person’s criminal history, psychological and remedial makeup. The strength of a person’s release plan is, of course, a crucial element,” said Justice Gendall.

“Hearing first-hand from the Serious Fraud Office gives Board members a valuable insight into the unique challenges of these cases at all stages of the criminal justice process.”

Last updated on the 29th June 2018