According to a freedom of information request by the Gazette, five defendants prosecuted by the SFO were convicted in calendar 2019, compared with 17 in the year ended 31 March 2019 and 10 in the year ended 31 March 2018.
The SFO’s caseload has also shrunk, with the number of active investigations falling by 20% from 75 in 2017/18 to around 60 today.
Figures show that the fraud busting agency is increasingly terminating cases without charge. In the three years between March 2015 and March 2018, just seven investigations were closed without charge. However, 14 cases were dropped in the twelve months ended 31 March 2019 and 10 have been closed since January 2019.
Deferred prosecution agreements – where a business is charged with a criminal offence but proceedings are automatically suspended – have failed to yield individual convictions. Since they were introduced in 2014, six DPAs have been publicly announced. However, while individuals have stood trial in the wake of the agreements, no one has been convicted.
Earlier this year, SFO director Lisa Osofsky said: ‘The SFO remains firmly focused on undertaking the effective investigation and prosecution of top-tier serious and complex economic crime. I am eager for the SFO to remain a trusted leader in this fight.’