Partner Richard Cannon argues that the Serious Fraud Office must take faster and more effective action in investigations under new leadership if it is to regain its reputation as a prosecuting authority.

Richard’s comments were published in Law360, 22 September 2023, and can be found here.

“It is unlikely that there will be any further charging decisions over the coming weeks, as it appears the SFO have already completed a pre-handover review of cases.

“While the incoming director Nick Ephgrave is bound to have some involvement in high profile investigations the SFO are conducting, it is unlikely he will oversee these on a day to day basis.

“Rather than evaluating Ephrave’s role on whether he proceeds with or drops certain legacy investigations, the Serious Fraud Office must be judged on how investigations are conducted and whether the procedural failings we have seen in recent years continue under this new leadership.

“Reforms to the identification doctrine will undoubtedly reshape the target of investigations to some extent, as this will allow the SFO to aim wider and lower when targeting corporates.

“The Act is not retrospective, however, and only if a senior manager of a corporate acting within the scope of their authority commits an offence after this comes into force could the organisation be held culpable.

“There is certainly fair criticism to be levelled at the length of time it takes the SFO to conclude an investigation, whether they are closed down or proceeded with. Under new leadership, it would be good to see this made a priority.

“Ephrave’s background managing investigations for the Metropolitan Police will offer some optimism for the future of the organisation, however investigations must be driven forward and action must be taken faster and more effectively.

“There will always be a case for more investment which will offer greater resources – however there is no guarantee that this will increase effectiveness and efficiency”

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