The director of the Serious Fraud Office has called for reform of disclosure rules to ‘rebalance the system for victims and justice’ following a series of high-profile errors by the watchdog. Lisa Osofsky said disclosure is ‘one of the biggest challenges’ the agency faces, but added that ‘there is a lot of work happening within the SFO to support our disclosure officers and to make our processes, policies and procedures better’. Speaking at the Cambridge International Symposium on Economic Crime, she suggested that the current disclosure regime – which was ‘designed before the advent of mass digital data … when there was far less material for investigators and prosecutors to deal with’ – is out of date. The SFO deals with ‘many millions’ of documents, including ‘complex digital data across many different devices’, in any given case which ‘could fill up 22 London buses’ if they were printed out, Osofsky said yesterday. ‘Yet the regime still demands manual review and description of documents,’ she said. ‘This can take years, with victims waiting for a resolution, waiting for their day in court. ‘The system also runs a deep risk of human error. Despite requiring the manual review of each document, the defence can use a mistake – which is capable of correction – to mount tactical challenges to our cases.’
Her comments come after the SFO was heavily criticised by the Court of Appeal, which has now quashed the convictions of three of the four men who were jailed after the watchdog’s Unaoil bribery investigation over ‘serious’ disclosure failures.