View from City Road: A lesson for the SFO

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The Independent Online
The case of Kenneth Renton, the investment manager sentenced yesterday to four years in prison, does few favours for the beleaguered Serious Fraud Office.

Renton was prosecuted by the Crown after an investigation by a small police team - no doubt more modestly paid than the City lawyers and accountants who make up the ranks of the SFO.

As far as we know the case has been unmarked by stories of forged letters, attempts to bribe the judge or documents erroneously passed to Clifford Chance.

Perhaps best of all for Renton's victims, he received a substantial prison sentence in keeping with the trial judge's view that 'the public is entitled to know that those who commit large-scale thefts and deceptions of this magnitude will pay the penalty for their dishonesty'. Judge Peter Fingret charitably failed to add the rider, 'unless prosecuted by the SFO'.

To be fair, Renton's was a low-profile and simple case of stealing money from friends and clients, with a remorseful defendant who was willing to assist the police and save public money by pleading guilty.

Still, there is little doubt that the conduct of the Renton case has been hugely more cost-effective than the SFO's prosecution of Roger Levitt, who last week got off with 180 hours' community service after a three-year investigation. The SFO must do better - if an apparently disenchanted government gives it the chance.