International - Written by on Sunday, June 11, 2017 1:15 - 0 Comments

Opinion: As debate shifts from future of SFO to future of Theresa May we say: At last, fund the SFO properly.

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After Theresa May’s election humiliation and the swift ‘resignation’ of her Chief’s of Staff, key advisers Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill, May’s pet plan to merge the SFO into the NCA in the 2017 Tory Manifesto should finally be dead and buried once and for all.

As George Osborne tweeted last week with the front page from the Newspaper he now edits, this “says it all”.

In remarkable shift overnight the debate has moved from one about the future of the SFO to the future of Theresa May.

A source told us that key architects of the idea to shutter the SFO were May’s key advisers

Repeated attacks from May and advisers failed

It is unclear why Theresa May and her key advisers refused to take on board the arguments repeatedly made to keep the SFO.  Likewise, they did not articulate any detailed alternative proposal.

Criticisms of Theresa May’s leadership style emerging since the election may give the answer.

The almost universal resistance from cabinet ministers, law enforcement, NGO’s and defence and prosecution lawyers to ending the unique SFO model is founded upon the reasons set out in the Roskill Report prepared after a string of failures under the old, pre SFO, regime.

With these two key paragraphs in the opening of the Roskill Report in 1986 the Serious Fraud Office was born:

“The public no longer believes that the legal system in England and Wales is capable of bringing perpetrators of serious frauds expeditiously and effectively to book.  The overwhelming weight of the evidence laid before us suggests that the public is right.”

“We welcome closer collaboration between the prosecuting authorities…However, we think that the need for a new unified organisation responsible for all the functions of detection, investigation and prosecution of serious fraud should be examined forthwith.”

Improved agency

The SFO in 2017 is a much improved agency after improvements made during the tenure of the present Director.   In recent years it has produced a string of successful outcomes to its investigations, including LIBOR, Bribery Act prosecutions and the use of the new Deferred Prosecution regime.

Money, money, money

All this with a tiny budget.

In the wake of the election, the SFO cat has used yet another of its nine lives and with a result no-one predicted the SFO is now set to stay.

As we have repeatedly argued, the effort against white collar crime needs in the UK is proper funding.  This must now be the focus.

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