Solicitors should be obliged to achieve a project management qualification before they are allowed to act on serious fraud trials, a group of experts said this week.

In an in-depth report on fraud investigation and prosecution, the Fraud Advisory Panel also called on judges to be more robust in making wasted costs orders against solicitors who fail to effectively manage cases.

The panel ? which comprises leading fraud specialists from different professions, including Robin Booth, chairman of the Law Society?s money laundering taskforce, and John Fisher, a barrister who headed the report ? identified lawyers? lack of case management skills as a cause of over-lengthy trials.

It recommended that the Legal Services Commission should provide mandatory case management courses, with an ?appropriate uplift? included in the legal costs paid to defence solicitors.

Mr Booth said: ?Lawyers on the whole are not trained in project management or other management skills... Subject to the overriding interests of the client, [they] should be prepared to consider whether they can operate in a way that is more efficient... Some form of management training may well become a condition of entry to the fraud panel.?

The report said steps should be undertaken to avoid the ?inexcusable? duplication of work by defence teams. It also recommended releasing prosecutors from the obligation to sift all material in their possession for the defence?s benefit ? more than 5,000 e-mails and electronic documents in an average prosecution.

The report called for a transparent and effective system of plea bargaining; the appointment of a cadre of ten specialist fraud judges; and the restoration of investigators? right to direct their own enquiries, instead of being required by legislation to pursue ?all reasonable lines of enquiry?.

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