top of page

Key takeaways from the SFO Five-Year Plan

The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has just published its strategic five-year plan, accompanied by an excited foreword by the new-in-post director, Nick Ephgrave. He writes with an optimism that certainly seems to point to a promising future for the agency, but can the SFO really deliver on all its aims?

Key outcomes identified 

Four key outcomes are outlined in the plan:

  1. A highly specialised, engaged and skilled workforce

  2. Being ready and able to harness the technology and tools of a changing world

  3. Combatting crime effectively through intelligence, enforcement and prevention

  4. Being a proactive, authoritative player in the global and domestic justice system

Developing personnel 

High staff turnover has been an on-going problem for the SFO, something which was emphasised in the reports commissioned following the collapse of the Unaoil and Serco cases. Alongside high staff turnover the reports spoke of low morale, unattractive rates of pay and a lack of resources. The five-year plan has a big focus on attracting and retaining talent, which is unsurprising given the SFO’s announcement in October 2023 that it was looking to boost its permanent staff by a third. Whilst there is also to be a focus on a change in culture, the question arises as to how this high-level, gold-standard recruitment drive – plus a move to Canary Wharf - will be funded.

Harnessing technology 

Disclosure has been a big issue for the SFO in recent years, causing it to abandon a number of cases. Again, the focus of the SFO’s plan does suggest that it is learning from the reports that were commissioned in the fall-out from recent failed cases. Technology will of course play a key part in upgrading its approach to disclosure, however the SFO is also planning on procuring a new case management system, and tackling AI for use across the criminal justice system. It almost seems trite to raise the question of funding again, however these are not small ambitions, and something which is somewhat beyond the SFO’s control.


New legislative powers

One area in which the funding will not be relevant, is in its deployment of new powers. This year sees the introduction of Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill, a bill which will expand the notion of corporate criminal liability and introduce an offence of failure to prevent fraud, false accounting or money laundering. The SFO hopes that this bill will aid them in being more proactive in the way that the agency operates.


When Ephrave made his inaugural speech earlier this year, he raised eyebrows with suggestions of the introduction of payments being made to whistle-blowers. Whilst not explicitly mentioned in the five-year plan, the door is left open with aims to improve the SFO’s ability to make use of assisting offenders, and reinforce the ways in which corporates can engage voluntarily with the justice process. Quite what form these aims take is unspecified.


One can’t help but feel Ephgrave’s injection of energy through these plans, however it remains to be seen whether the SFO will actually be able to follow through with them.

by Rachel Quickenden, Senior Consultant, Constantine Law




bottom of page