Covid and The SFO: Charging Again

Covid and The SFO: Charging Again

Neil Hawes QC, Joint Head of Chambers comments:

The Covid-19 pandemic has created untold problems and complications for all walks of businesses and how they operate, often remotely, under the ‘new normal’. These challenges have been no different for the UK’s prosecuting agencies: the SFO has, in fact, throughout recent months, continued to pursue its investigations, although recent press coverage has drawn attention to the fact that the SFO has hit an all-time low number of active charges for the organisation.

Today, with the announcement of criminal charges of corruption being brought against GPT Special Project Management Ltd and two executives, with a second count of misconduct in a public office, and a count against a third individual of aiding and abetting that misconduct it is clear that the SFO has started to redress that balance. Details can be found here. Although this investigation commenced in August 2012, given the number of historical and long running investigations the SFO is still pursuing, there will be much interest whether this represents the first step in a new phase of significant charging activity by the SFO in some of those investigations. The next of many challenges the parties will face in proceedings of this type is when will these cases be listed for an anticipated socially distanced multi-handed trial?