'Terrifying' former judge hired to beef up SFO

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The Independent Online

The new head of the embattled Serious Fraud Office has put a tough senior former judge on the payroll to aid his attempts at cracking down on City crime.

David Green, who last Friday launched an investigation into the Libor scandal and reopened its inquiry into the Weavering hedge fund fraud, has hired Geoffrey Rivlin QC to advise him on bringing cases to court.

The move will form a key plank in Mr Green's attempts to improve the SFO's reputation for competence after its bungled investigation into Vincent Tchenguiz, which resulted in the organisation dropping its case and apologising to the tycoon.

Mr Green, who has practised as a QC himself, said Mr Rivlin would be used to focus on making sure cases are of a high quality when they reach the courts to maximise the chances of successful prosecutions.

Rivlin, who retired last year as senior resident judge at Southwark Crown Court will take up the new role for two years. He had a terrifying reputation among senior lawyers and barristers appearing in his courts.

Eversheds partner Neill Blundell, said: "He was an absolute stickler for detail. Extremely pernickity. Boy did you know it if you got it wrong in his court."

He added that Rivlin would be extremely effective at killing unwinnable cases in their early stages, or recommending improvements. "It's extremely innovative of Green," he said.

Another fraud lawyer at a leading firm said: "He'll be brilliant at making sure cases are in good nick when they come to trial. But I pity the people working for him. Like a lot of judges, he's worked on his own for a long time. How will he be able to manage people at the SFO?"

Rivlin will support the work of another newcomer to the organisation, Alan Milford, currently head of organised crime at the Crown Prosecution Service.

Mr Green, who took over from Richard Alderman in April, arrived on a mission to, in his words: "Recharge the SFO's corporate self-respect and lead it to the top of its game as a major crime fighting agency."

Geoffrey Rivlin QC, who retired last year as senior resident judge at Southwark Crown Court, is to be paid £100,000 a year for the two-year position.