Inquiry into the SFO better late than never

23 February 2012

Following the collapse of some high profile cases, Dominic Grieve, the Attorney General, has ordered an inquiry to review the SFO's casework and broader issues, including how the SFO chooses which cases to investigate.

The inquiry is to be conducted by Mike Fuller, the head of the CPSI, which is the body that monitors the CPS.  Both he and Edward Garnier, the Solicitor General, are known to be visiting Richard Alderman, the director of the SFO, to discuss the scope of the inquiry.

While the Attorney General's office has attempted to play down the fact of the inquiry by citing the anomaly that, unlike for other agencies, there is no legislative provision for the independent monitoring of the SFO, there is no escaping the interesting timing of the inquiry. Richard Alderman will be retiring at the end of April, to be replaced by David Green QC, ex head of HMRC's prosecution team.

No doubt Dominic Grieve is hoping that the inquiry will lead to significant improvements in the quality of the SFO's operations.  Let's face it, if the first major prosecution under the much fanfared corporate offence under the Bribery Act 2010 was to founder due to basic investigative or procedural errors, the reputational damage to an already beleaguered SFO would be politically embarrassing for the coalition and mortifying for the SFO itself.

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