Serious Fraud Office (SFO) Investigations
Our lawyers possess the requisite knowledge and experience to provide expert advice to both individuals and corporates who find themselves involved in an SFO investigation. We adopt a strategic, proactive approach to complex investigations and make sure the investigation is both conducted and concluded in the best way possible for our clients. The below is a non-exhaustive outline of how such investigations are carried out and how they should be handled.
Section 2 Powers
Under Section 2 of the Criminal Justice Act 1987 (the CJA) the SFO can compel any individual or organisation to provide it with information or documents that it believes are relevant to its investigation. A Section 2 Notice will normally contain a date for an interview or deadline for the provision of documents.
The powers of the director under this section are exercisable in any case in which it appears to him that there is good reason to do so for the purpose of investigating the matter but only:
- for the purposes of an investigation pursuant to s1 (appointment of the SFO to investigate offences which involve serious or complex fraud), or
- on a request made by an authority entitled to make such a request (s2(1)) Privilege
As mentioned, a section 2 notice can require an individual to provide documentation which may be relevant to the investigation at hand – these requests are often vast and arduous and frequently the sort of documents which can be disclosed is called into contention. In the recent landmark decision of ENRC v SFO, the judge ruled that documents including working papers and notes made by lawyers could not enjoy the protection of privilege because they had been created before a point before criminal legal proceedings were contemplated. We have ample experience in handling complex matters surrounding disclosure in SFO investigations and take a strategic and meticulous approach in this respect.
Individuals do not have a right to silence as in regular police interviews and it is imperative that lawyers are instructed from the outset. A failure to comply with a section 2 notice without reasonable excuse, and the provision of false or misleading section 1 notice is an offence punishable by up to six months’ imprisonment for failure to comply or two years imprisonment for providing false or misleading information as well as a fine. It is important to remember that the SFO’s actions will often depend on the response it receives from those under investigation.
Generally, compliance with a Section 2 Notice can be more complex and protracted than it might initially seem. The recipient of the notice should seek legal advice as soon as possible in connection with the notice itself and also in connection with the ramifications of being a recipient of such a notice which can be extensive. Contact our lawyers today by calling +44 (0) 203 666 5155 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.