Report finds SFO has made improvements in case progression

Follow-up inspection of the Serious Fraud Office – case progression (786 kB)

Following a comprehensive inspection, HM Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate (HMCPSI) has published a report today (4 May 2023) concluding that the SFO has made extensive improvements in handling and progressing its cases.

HMCPSI previously inspected SFO’s handling of cases and in 2019, inspectors made seven recommendations around resource management, training, staff compliance with operating procedures, consistent use of external counsel, and tackling the backlog in processing digital material.

The Inspectorate’s latest report follows-up on its 2019 inspection and concludes that three of the seven recommendations have been fully met. The SFO better allocates resources according to case needs, there is consistency around the use of external counsel, and the digital forensic unit is more efficient and effective.

The four remaining recommendations from 2019 have been determined as being partially met. Inspectors have seen improvements around training, developing a resourcing model, reviews resourcing in a holistic manner, and better compliance with organisation handbook.

But further evidence will be required over time to fully understand what impact has been made following changes introduced.

HMCPSI’s Chief Inspector, Andrew Cayley KC CMG, said:

“The SFO has had a mixed performance record in recent times, experiencing some high-profile case failures while also achieving several major successes. This latest inspection shows that since 2019, the SFO Director and her staff have made significant advances to ensure proper case monitoring, assurance, and progression, and this is commendable.

“There is still more work to be done but I am confident that with strengthened management processes and more direct challenges by senior management, case progression outcomes will vastly improve. This will ultimately benefit how the SFO tackles the scourge of serious and complex financial crime.”

To help the SFO address its remaining operational issues, HMCPSI has recommended:

  • Develop a strategic resourcing model by December 2023
  • By March 2024 all case controllers to be provided with enhanced management and leadership skills training
  • Establishing a standardised casework assurance process that captures pre-investigation, investigation and post charge stages and ensure compliance with the process on all SFO cases by September 2023

HMCPSI’s inspection also assessed progress made by SFO to implement recommendations made by Sir David Calvert-Smith and Brian Altman KC in their independent reviews.

Inspectors concluded that there is more work to do but improvements have been made by SFO in several areas outlined in the independent reviews, including a change in approach to resourcing, more training is available and more investment in technology to assist staff outputs.

Notes to editors

  1. HMCPSI has a statutory duty to inspect the Serious Fraud Office.
  2. The full report is available here
  3. The SFO Director asked HMCPSI to inspect the SFO’s proficiency in progressing cases. HMCPSI published an inspection of case progression in SFO in 2019:
  4. The inspection was carried out between October 2022 and January 2023 – with inspectors being located in SFO in November 2022 and December 2022. The inspection team was led by Jeetinder Sarmotta Senior Legal Inspector and inspectors assessed files, as well as holding interviews with staff and management.