The Parliamentary Information Office reported earlier this month on the session of the Justice Select Committee, arranged as a one-off meeting to examine topical issues relating to the Serious Fraud Office. Then yesterday the Attorney General published HM Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate’s report on the SFO.
The inspection found significant process failures and other weaknesses, which the agency needs to address to improve performance. The Inspectorate also identifies strengths, for example in analysis and presentation of evidence.
The report makes eight recommendations, all of which the new SFO Director, David Green QC, has accepted. Changes instigated in the past few months have begun to address the issues of concern.
HM Chief Inspector Michael Fuller QPM said:
“The inspection found that there was a great will to see the SFO succeed. But much needs to be addressed if the SFO is to become a respected crime fighting organisation which is the envy of the world.
“As with all our inspections, this report represents a tool for improvement and I welcome the fact that David Green has already asked us to return within two years to see that progress has been made.
“Our inspection team was tailored for this task, supported by specialist fraud investigators/prosecutors and two police fraud specialists. I would like to thank all the people, not least the SFO staff, who gave us their views.”
Welcoming the report, the Attorney General, Dominic Grieve QC MP said:
“I would like to thank HM Chief Inspector and his team for this very helpful report.
“Tackling economic crime and complex fraud must be a priority and I wanted to ensure from the outset that the work of the SFO should be subject to independent inspection to ensure that processes and practices are continually improved. I am grateful to the former Director, Richard Alderman, for inviting the Inspectorate in to the Department and for the current Director, David Green CB QC, for taking the majority of the review work forward.
“While there are clearly problems to address, I am encouraged that the inspection team also found that the SFO does many things well and that the direction in which the SFO is now headed is the right one.
“The report also makes clear the compelling case for investigators and prosecutors working together, as they do at the SFO, as the model best suited to the kind of complex cases the agency was set up to take on.”
· The report was published via Written Ministerial Statement with copies laid in the House libraries. It is also published on HMCPSI’s website.
· Unlike the Crown Prosecution Service, there is no statutory basis for the SFO to be subject to inspection. Therefore it was inspected by agreement with the Attorney General and at the invitation of the former Director. There is no formal requirement to publish; the report was made to the Attorney General, who confirmed to Parliament in July his intention to do so.
· The report does not refer to specific cases due to the operational sensitivities.
· The inspection was carried out during March and April 2012. The report was passed to the Attorney General’s Office on 8 November.
The Parliamentary Information Office will continue to report on all developments as we go through the months ahead.