Following the publication last week of the Calvert-Smith and Altman reports into the SFO, BCL partner Richard Sallybanks has been quoted in GIR’s latest article “SFO reviews pile on the pressure” about how the SFO’s disclosure failings in these cases should be addressed by proper resourcing, funding and training, and not by any lessening of the SFO’s disclosure obligations.
Here is a short extract from the article*. If you wish to read the full article, please visit Global Investigations Review website.
UK practitioners condemned the UK’s anti-fraud watchdog for the “basic” failures described in recent reviews of the agency and say the reports provide an urgent opportunity for learning and reflection by the SFO and the government.
The comments were made following the release of separate reviews into the collapse of two major cases, the Serious Fraud Office’s bribery probe into Monaco oil services consultancy Unaoil and a fraud investigation into outsourcing company Serco, that laid bare various leadership problems and internal failures at the agency.
…According to reports just days after the publication of the Calvert-Smith and Altman reviews, the SFO and NCA, among other civil service departments, have reportedly been asked to model the impact of a 20 to 40% reduction in headcount – a move met with disbelief by UK lawyers – in line with plans to cut 90,000 civil service jobs.
Most lawyers canvassed by GIR said that the SFO needs proper financial resourcing and staffing for the problems identified by both reports to be addressed. “The lack of resources is obviously a big problem and if we want to have an effective SFO the government needs to invest in the agency,” Vamos said.
Sir Calvert-Smith recommendations include – among other solutions – that the SFO create “a clear route by which case staff (the case team) can raise concerns about cases”. Altman QC’s suggestions focused on investment in technology and revisions to the SFO’s operational handbook to introduce standardised methods for the disclosure process. The SFO has reportedly outsourced evidence review in its G4S investigation to a legal technology group.
Richard Sallybanks at BCL Solicitors warned against changes to current disclosure practices. He pointed to Osofsky’s appearance before the parliamentary justice select committee in March, where she confirmed she requested amendments to the Criminal Procedure and Investigations Act.
Sallybanks said any potential solutions should focus on resourcing, training and review. He added that that the SFO’s purpose to investigate and prosecute the most serious and complex fraud and corruption cases, where huge volumes of material must be reviewed, is not a “justification for watering down the SFO’s statutory disclosure obligations”. During the March hearing, Osofsky denied seeking to dilute the SFO’s obligations and said she wants the rules changed so defendants will have to engage with the agency at an earlier stage.
*This article was first published by Global Investigations Review on 28 July 2022. If you wish to read the full article, please visit Global Investigations Review website.
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