BCL associates Greta Barkle and Jonathan Flynn's article 'Emerging from COVID-19: an opportunity for prosecutors?' has been published by Fraud Intelligence.

Here's an extract from the article:

'Criminal lawyers are always asked by their clients how long they think an investigation or prosecution into allegedly serious offending will take. Even before the outbreak of COVID-19, in a justice system crippled by budget cuts and beset with inefficiencies, the answer would nearly always be measured in years.

Nowhere has the issue of delay been more acute than in cases investigated and prosecuted by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO). When Lisa Osofsky became the Director of the SFO in 2018, it was optimistically predicted that pace and proactivity would become the new norms. Despite the Director's best efforts, the figures tell their own truth. In the last year for which statistics exist (ending March 2019), the SFO concluded 10 cases. The majority were for criminal conduct that was said to have occurred between 2010 and 2013, with the most recent being 2015. Of the cases that proceeded to trial, the headlines continued of high-profile acquittal – Tesco (defendants acquitted December 2018 for conduct reported in 2014); after acquittal – Güralp (defendants acquitted December 2019 for conduct between 2002 and 2015); after acquittal – Barclays (defendants acquitted February 2020 for conduct in 2008).

When it was recently reported that the SFO had not conducted an interview or executed a search warrant since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, some commentators began to question whether this really was the end. Nevertheless, whilst battered and beleaguered, the demise of the SFO seems unlikely. And, like the most sensible businesses forced to adopt a rigorous prioritisation of key work in a post COVID-19 world, there appears to be a real desire to confront the future.

Whilst the proof will only be apparent in more timely case progression, the SFO's mid COVID-19 crisis response to the 2019 reviews conducted by HM Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate (HMCPSI) is a promising start, even if the time taken to respond to the reviews might itself say something about the SFO's tempo.'

This article was originally published by Fraud Intelligence. You can read the full version on their website.

Originally published by Fraud Intelligence, 11 June 2020

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