SFO conviction rate drops to 16 out of 31

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The Independent Online
DAVID HELLIER

The Serious Fraud Office's conviction rate fell last year, according to its annual report published yesterday.

It won convictions against 16 out of 31 defendants last year, a lower proportion than the near-70 per cent it has averaged during its first seven years.

SFO sources said they thought it was not especially useful to look at one year's figures in isolation.

Last year a downturn in caseload, a slippage in case time and a reduction in the size of cases also resulted in an underspend on the SFO's pounds 1.6m budget.

The SFO's workload was dominated by fraud on banks or financial institutions and fraud on creditors of companies with 21 cases each. There were 14 cases of fraud on investors and five cases of fraud on central and local government.

George Staple, the SFO's director, says that he is discussing with the Association of Police Officers the terms of a Memorandum of Understanding intended to lead to the clarification of the role of the police.

The number of police working within the SFO has dropped sharply because fewer cases have been sent to trial, partly reflecting the fact that more cases are being referred from outside London so that fewer police officers tend to be based at the SFO's London headquarters.

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