New SFO director sets out his most urgent priorities

John Binns comments in The Law Society Gazette.

Nick Ephgrave last week set out an ambitious transformation plan, including speeding up cases and improving disclosure. But solicitors specialising in white-collar crime remain sceptical

‘Under my leadership, SFO cases will be processed more quickly, we will be faster,’ Ephgrave said.

John Binns, white-collar crime partner at BCL Solicitors, said it is ‘crucial’ the SFO uses methods open to it ‘wisely’. He added: ‘The SFO’s toolbox has never been more packed, with compulsory disclosure, deferred prosecution, and “failure to prevent” offences.’

John’s comments were first published in The Law Society Gazette on 19 February 2024, and can be seen here.

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A New SFO Director, and the SFO’s toolbox has never been more packed.

John Binns comments in Edward Fennell’s Legal Diary.

Giving his first public speech as the new Director of the Serious Fraud Office (SFO), Nick Ephgrave, addressed fresh measures to tackle fraud including swifter action and more dawn raids.

“The SFO’s name has not always been synonymous with good prosecuting. We’ve seen a hard few years of high-profile errors and worse, and all of us hope that this trajectory can be turned around.

Good prosecuting needs expertise, fairness, and resourcing, as well as legal powers. The SFO’s toolbox has never been more packed, with compulsory disclosure, deferred prosecution, and ‘failure to prevent’ offences. But it’s crucial that they use these wisely.

The public are increasingly aware of how criminal cases can go badly wrong. Failures to disclose material to the defence, fixed mindsets, and stitch-ups between companies and prosecutors, are common risks in cases of bribery and fraud.

Will Nick Ephgrave be the man to turn the SFO’s fortunes around? Strange as it seems, defence lawyers are among those keenest to see that come about. A prosecutor that is both efficient and fair, pursuing the right cases and achieving safe convictions, is a result in all our interests.”

John’s comments were first published in Edward Fennell’s Legal Diary on 16 February 2024, and can be seen here.

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BVL named BCL’s Charity of the Year 2024

We are delighted to announce that Big Voice London (BVL) has been selected as our Charity of the Year for 2024.
About BVL: In 2011 a group of law students worked together to design an outreach project called ‘Big Voice London’. The project helped students from non-fee-paying schools in and around London to explore the UK legal system. Since then, BVL has worked with over 2000 young people and grown into a social mobility charity operating across England and Wales.
BVL aims to:
  • Engage our students in law and legal policy
  • Inspire them to pursue legal careers
  • Improve diversity in the legal profession
They believe that a person’s background should not be a barrier to entering the legal profession and that the legal system can only benefit from the profession better reflecting the society we live in.
Each year at BCL, we ask our members of staff to nominate a charity that they would like us to support. Our Charity of the Year aims to support a cause that could be local to our firm or one with a personal connection to our members of staff, and as our Charity of the Year, BCL will give a financial donation and hold fundraising events to raise further funds and awareness throughout the year.
To find out more about the fantastic work this charity does please visit their website here.

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Crisis in the Courts: Barristers shun rape cases – David Hardstaff comments for Solicitors Journal

“Devastating” report reveals 64% of prosecutors and 66% of defense barristers refuse serious sexual assault cases, exacerbating backlog crisis


In a concerning revelation, a recent report from the Criminal Bar Association (CBA) has unveiled a deepening crisis in the legal system, as the majority of barristers express their reluctance to take on rape and serious sexual assault cases. 

David emphasised that the chronic underfunding and neglect spanning decades lie at the core of this issue. This crisis not only contradicts the standards upheld by a progressive society but also undermines the government’s struggling Rape Review. An increase in miscarriages of justice is likely to follow.

This article was first published in Solicitors Journal on 14 February 2024; to read the full article please click here.

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BCL Partners named Thought Leaders in Who’s Who Legal: Global Elite 2024

We are delighted to announce that BCL Partners Shula de Jersey and Richard Sallybanks have been recognised as Thought Leaders in the field of Business Crime Defence in Who’s Who Legal Global Elite 2024.

WWL Thought Leaders: Global Elite brings together the insight, expertise, and wisdom of some of the world’s foremost lawyers and experts in a single report which can be seen here.

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It’s not just Taylor Swift; all women are at risk from the rise of deepfakes – Michael Drury comments in Glamour

Last week, saw pornographic deepfake images of mega-star, Taylor Swift, circulated on various social media platforms, including X and Meta. Not only were the images themselves made without the singer’s consent, but they also reportedly depicted her being assaulted in non-consensual sexual acts.

According to NBC News, the deepfakes of Swift on X amassed over 27 million views and more than 260,000 likes in 19 hours before the account that initially posted the images was suspended. X has since blocked searches for ‘Taylor Swift’ on the site. Joe Benarroch, head of business operations at X, described the measure as “temporary”, adding that it was done with “an abundance of caution as we prioritise safety on this issue.”

What is the law on deepfakes in the UK?

According to Michael Drury, Of Counsel at BCL Solicitors, “There is no direct law prohibiting the sharing of ‘deep fakes’ unless those images are pornographic. In that case, the recently created offences under the Online Safety Act 2023 will mean that a crime has been committed as long as the person whose image is shared (real or fake) has not consented and the person sharing does not believe they have consented.

“There is no direct civil wrong allowing the person said to be shown in the image to sue. For those in the same position as Taylor Swift, the obvious solution is to rely upon the copyright of one’s image (if copyrighted), a breach of privacy or data protection laws; harassment (as a civil wrong), perhaps defamation, or criminal law more generally.”

This article was first published by Glamour on 31 January 2024 and can be seen here.

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BCL’s Oliver Schneider-Sikorsky ranked in the Private Client Global Elite

We are delighted to announce that BCL’s Oliver Schneider-Sikorsky has been ranked Tier 1 in’s Private Client Global Elite.

Launched in 2017, the Private Client Global Elite serves as a highly respected global directory of the world’s top private client and trust and estates litigation talent, as well as rising stars within the industry.

The rankings are used by the legal community when looking for referrals, family offices and professional advisers.

Oliver is ranked Tier 1 for ‘Reputation and Crisis Management’ and ‘Criminal Litigation’, and his full profile can be seen here.

With a full list of the rankings here.

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Shaul Brazil discusses the UK’s Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Act 2023 on the IBA’s First Business Law International Podcast

BCL’s Shaul Brazil joins Editorial Board Member, Melissa Stock, in the IBA’s first Business Law International podcast to analyse the UK’s Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Act, which became law in October 2023. The panel discuss the background to the legislation and its implications, including in respect of the new failure to prevent offence and changes to corporate criminal liability.

Listen to the full podcast here.

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Individuals in Cross-Border Investigations or Proceedings: The UK Perspective

In any cross-border investigation, invariably suspects will be located in different jurisdictions or subject to investigations by authorities from different jurisdictions, or both. BCL’s Richard Sallybanks, Anoushka Warlow, and Evgeni Voznoi take a look at the key issues that can arise when acting for an individual present in the United Kingdom who is subject to criminal investigation or proceedings in one or more overseas jurisdictions, or who is facing parallel proceedings in the United Kingdom and abroad.

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Lexology In-Depth: Anti-Money Laundering 2024 edited by BCL Partner John Binns

Lexology’s Anti-Money Laundering edited by BCL partner John Binns 2024.

There can be no doubt that the prevention of money laundering is both a worthwhile, even essential, endeavour for governments to pursue, and that it requires an unprecedented degree of international cooperation (reflecting the fact that much laundering activity now takes place internationally). But is prevention really what anti-money laundering (AML) laws achieve in practice? And if not, why do we do it?

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