May 2023 update on progress in delivering the recommendations in Sir David Calvert-Smith’s Independent Review into the Serious Fraud Office’s handling of the Unaoil Case (Lord Stewart of Dirleton)

Following the Court of Appeal’s judgment in the Unaoil case (R. v Akle & Anor) in December 2021, the then Attorney General commissioned Sir David Calvert-Smith to conduct an independent review into the Serious Fraud Office’s (SFO) handling of the case.

Sir David’s full report was published on 21 July 2022, alongside a response to his recommendations. Sir David made 11 recommendations, which were accepted. These covered a range of matters, including record keeping and case assurance, compliance with policies, and resourcing.

At the same time, the then Attorney General laid a Written Ministerial Statement (WMS) providing Parliament with the findings of Sir David’s review and a response to his recommendations. This statement included a commitment to update Parliament on progress in delivering these recommendations in November 2022 and February 2023.

On 29 November 2022, I laid a WMS providing the first of these updates and a detailed progress update was also published on GOV.UK. This update showed substantial progress in delivering Sir David’s recommendations, with the SFO having already taken significant action to implement nine of his 11 recommendations. For the two remaining recommendations, work had commenced to address Sir David’s proposals.

At the same time, this update highlighted that while many of the changes recommended by Sir David could – and have been – made quickly, it would take time to embed these changes and assess their effectiveness.

I also informed Parliament that the second progress update would be provided in May 2023 to allow the findings of an upcoming inspection of the SFO by His Majesty’s Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate (HMCPSI) to be considered as part of the update.

Today, I am providing the second update on progress against Sir David’s recommendations. As of May 2023, there continues to be good progress. Significant action has now been taken to deliver all eleven of Sir David’s recommendations, with further activity planned in some instances. In addition, action to embed the changes that have been made and monitor their effectiveness is ongoing.

There is also independent evidence that the actions taken so far are proving to be effective. On 4 May 2023, HMCPSI published its follow-up inspection of case progression in the SFO. As part of the inspection, where issues raised in Sir David’s review were within scope, HMCPSI used the evidence gathered to assess the progress made to address his recommendations. While highlighting some areas for further work, this assessment indicated positive progress on many of his recommendations.

It nonetheless remains the case that it will take time to fully embed Sir David’s recommendations and assess whether the actions taken have been effective. To support this longer-term assessment, the Law Officers have asked the Chief Inspector of HMCPSI to consider an inspection of the recommendations’ implementation as part the HMCPSI’s inspection programme in 2024-25.

A detailed update on progress will be published on GOV.UK today and copies will be placed in the libraries of both Houses.

seen at 09:55, 25 May in Written Ministerial Statements.
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