News & what's on - Written by on Wednesday, November 28, 2012 1:29 - 0 Comments

David Green lays out the core purpose of the SFO to House of Commons Justice Committee

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Speaking at the recent House of Commons Justice Committee the new Director was asked whether, under his Directorship, the numbers of prosecutions would increase.

His answer to the question gave insight to the direction of travel of the SFO.  We reproduce it below.

“What I have done is, I like to think, to restate the purpose of the SFO, which had become a bit woolly and a bit blurred over time, for all sorts of reasons. The SFO was set up, as you know, to investigate and prosecute serious complex fraud, and now also bribery and corruption. We are primarily a crime-fighting agency. The perception seems to have arisen in the past that the SFO was anxious to do deals, and more willing to do deals, because it had no real stomach for prosecutions. That cannot be right, although I can see why that perception, or that desire—if indeed it was manifest in the SFO—came about. All our cases are very high profile and very high risk, so it is inevitable that people might look around and be attracted by other things—things that might amount to something that has been described as fools’ gold.

In my view, we should do cases that call for the SFO’s unique set-up. By “unique”, I mean having all those skills that I described earlier—accountancy, prosecution, investigative and computer expertise, and so forth—all under one roof, working together. That was the original Roskill vision, and it works. I have therefore restated the purpose of the SFO and, while I was about it, I restated and tried to encapsulate the kind of cases, the absolute top end of fraud, bribery and corruption that I think the SFO was set up to do, and the public want the SFO to do.

I have tried to describe those as follows: cases that undermine UK financial plc in general, the City of London in particular, and cases that have elements such as a strong public interest dimension—perhaps cases that are the first of a new species of fraud, cases where very high values are involved, and serious bribery and corruption by British companies acting abroad as well as at home. That is why and how I have restated the purpose of the SFO…”

Asked about whether the proportion of cases dealt with by prosecution, rather than by non-prosecutorial means, will increase at the end of the new Director’s period of office he said:

“…I am not sure; we will have to wait and see. It is probably inevitable that there will be more prosecutions, and hopefully we will have other tools in our toolbox to deal with our cases, such as deferred prosecution agreements. Our turnover will be greater, but that is as far as I would go at the moment—although certainly no one would be happier than I would be if we had more prosecutions.”

The Committee also put to Mr. Green that did Mr. Green think there was a danger of non-prosecutorial routes being taken in too many cases.

He confirmed he did:  “It is wrong for all sorts of reasons. I dare say that the public are unhappy if they think that serious fraud is simply not dealt with. This is what we are supposed to do.”

The comments speak for themselves.

NB

The quotes in this piece come from the uncorrected transcript of a hearing before the Justice Committee.  At the time of writing the participants have not had the opportunity to correct the record. The transcript is not yet an approved formal record of those proceedings.

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