Serious Fraud Office appoints SFA director to succeed Staple

Rosalind Wright to take over at 'beleaguered' SFO after its high-profil e difficulties

Rosalind Wright, the new director designate of the Serious Fraud Office, yesterday pledged to examine suggestions for using the civil law to tackle white collar crime and to seek ways of cutting the length of fraud trials.

Speaking after the Attorney General, Sir Nicholas Lyell, named her as the pounds 108,192 a year successor to the outgoing SFO director George Staple, Mrs Wright said the proposal for calling alleged fraudsters to account in the civil courts - where there is a lower burden of proof and no jury - was already under consideration.

Mrs Wright said she had begun to examine the issue at the Securities and Futures Authority, of which she is currently general counsel and an executive director. "It is something I had hoped to develop further," she said.

"We think this is probably the way things are moving," she said, adding that she would look at American experience of using civil measures "with great interest".

"Beleaguered" is how the SFO has come to be widely described in the wake of its more high-profile difficulties, culminating in the ruling out of a second Maxwell trial last year.

Mrs Wright, a 54-year-old barrister and mother of three grown-up children, will have an initial five-year contract to build on an already reasonable (though little noticed) conviction rate in the lower-profile cases whilst seeking to avoid more public relations disasters.

She has built up senior experience in an official organisation. Mrs Wright was formerly head of Prosecutions at the SFA, and between 1983 and 1987 was the head of the fraud investigation group in the Director of Public Prosecutions Department, the SFO's effective predecessor before its creation in 1988. Mr Staple had been a senior litigation partner with a City law firm before he joined the SFO in 1992.

As general counsel to the Securities and Futures Authority, she has been giving legal advice and analysis internally and externally, and as executive director she has devised and developed SFA [note SFA here] strategy and policy with an emphasis on enforcement.

A product of St Paul's Girls' School and University College London, she practised as a barrister in the chambers of Morris Finer QC before joining public service.

No one was predicting yesterday that life will be anything other than difficult when she takes over her new role on 21 April. A string of disappointments followed the early euphoria of the conviction of Ernest Saunders and the other Guinness One defendants in 1990 - an achievement itself dented by Saunders' successful European Court of Human Rights claim earlier this year that he was denied a fair trial.

While the BCCI trials undoubtedly counted as big successes, the Guinness II and IV trials and the outcomes in Blue Arrow, Brent Walker, Roger Levitt and Maxwell I spelt failure in the public consciousness. Mr Justice Buckley put a stop to Maxwell II in forceful and pointed terms.

Mrs Wright, whose appointment had to be approved by Labour because of proximity to the election, said it was too early for a "mission statement" about her leadership of the agency. But she urged the public to have confidence in a system that had achieved a 63 per cent conviction rate since it began operations in April 1988. Of a total of 349 defendants, 219 have been convicted. At least one defendant, usually the principal offender, was convicted in 75 per cent of cases brought.

A number of convictions result from guilty pleas, however, sometimes following the acceptance of pleas to lesser charges than originally alleged. Mrs Wright will not want to preside over a repeat of the Roger Levitt affair where the defendant ended up with a token sentence.

Staple's five-year record

Appointed, April 1992

Retiring, April 1997

83 prosecutions brought

186 individuals tried

115 convictions

71 acquittals

62 per cent success rate

Biggest successes: Polly Peck, BCCI

Biggest failures: Maxwell, Guinness II, Guinness IV, Brent Walker, Blue Arrow, Roger Levitt (convicted but not jailed)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Sheridan Maine: Commercial Finance Manager

Up to £70,000 per annum + benefits: Sheridan Maine: Are you a qualified accoun...

Sheridan Maine: Regulatory Reporting Accountant

Up to £65,000 per annum + benefits: Sheridan Maine: Are you a qualified accoun...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Services Manager - (communications, testing, DM)

£32000 - £35000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Services Manage...

Guru Careers: Finance Account Manager

£Neg. (DOE) + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: A Finance Account Manager with...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas