Neil Williams, of business crime solicitors Rahman Ravelli, can see potential benefits but also has reservations.

The Director of the UK's Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has expressed a desire to offer immunity deals to those who cooperate with her agency.

Lisa Osofsky has made it clear that she intends to make greater use of the immunity provisions contained in the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 (SOCPA). Section 71 of SOCPA enables a prosecutor to offer an individual immunity from prosecution for any offence if the prosecutor believes it is appropriate to do so for the purpose of an investigation or prosecution.

The immunity provisions of SOCPA have, so far, been used sparingly. But since taking up her post almost a year ago, the SFO Director has talked of the need to not only speed up investigations but also to encourage cooperation with her investigators. Two months ago, she promised to provide companies with detailed guidance on cooperation with the SFO. Now it seems as if she wants to use the immunity provisions of SOCPA to encourage those under investigation to "cut a deal'', to use a phrase that is used in the United States; which is where Ms Osofsky is from. But any attempt to use the immunity provisions of SOCPA more frequently than they are now may be met with resistance.

Given the scale of the investigations the SFO undertakes, the use of the immunity provisions may well be a useful tool to cut through the web of evidence gathered. However, whether offering immunity to one to prosecute another will work remains to be seen; especially if there is greater culpability attached to the person immune from prosecution.

This will certainly take some getting used to in the UK, as it is not something which has been taken up to any great extent in the past. Yet it has been said that our jurisdiction is a little behind the US in dealing with fraud prosecutions - an expansion of immunity deals may well be another means to bring us more up to date.

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