View from City Road: Another wait for Blue Arrow men

Click to follow
THERE is no need to underline the poor handling of the Blue Arrow case by the Serious Fraud Office because this week it pleaded guilty, by implication, to mismanagement. The SFO's counsel told the appeal hearing that it would not handle the year-long trial the same way again.

It is not much use asking for a government overhaul of the SFO to stop so much public money being wasted again. Other major trials are approaching and we must hope that lessons have been learnt already. The SFO, then headed by Barbara Mills, who has gone on to greater things as Director of Public Prosecutions, thought the trial would last four to six months, but it ended up taking twice as long.

For the City the looming question is how to handle the disciplinary aftermath of a criminal trial in which four defendants have been acquitted. Should their innocence automatically allow the three who have not retired to practise in the City as if nothing had happened?

There have been many cases in which City figures have been disciplined by their regulatory organisations but not prosecuted. There were examples among the walk-on players in the Guinness affair, and indeed in Blue Arrow when the Bank of England forced resignations at National Westminster Bank after the inspectors' report was published. There is no suggestion that the directors who resigned at that time had committed criminal offences. But they were regarded as falling down on professional standards and were heaved out.

The regulators have every right to look at the facts afresh and to make a decision on the basis of their own rules for market behaviour.

(Photograph omitted)