Letter: No decision on Landhurst

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I refer to the article by David Hellier in the Business section "Cimbdown threatens SFO" (8 January). It refers to the case of Landhurst Leasing, which is the subject of an SFO investigation.

Mr Hellier claims that the "SFO may have to abandon charges against some individuals in the affair and reduce those against others". This may be thought to imply that charges have already been brought. This is not true. No charges have been brought against anyone. To describe this as a "climbdown" is wholly misleading.

It is the SFO's function to investigate and, if there is a realistic prospect of conviction and it is in the public interest to do so, to prosecute those responsible for fraud. Before the Office can be satisfied there is realistic prospect of conviction a thorough investigation must take place. Anything less would be a dereliction of duty.

Independent legal advice is invariably sought from counsel, who reviews the evidence available before reaching a conclusion on what charges would be appropriate and whether there would be a realistic prospect of conviction.

That is the course these matters should follow, and it the course that is being followed in the case of Landhurst Leasing, but final decisions have not yet been reached. It is difficult to see how any of this could logically be linked with Rex Davie's consideration of the merger of the SFO and the Fraud Divisions of the Crown Prosecution Service or could justify a claim that the handling of the case threatens the SFO.

George Staple Director, Serious Fraud Office