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Complaints policy

Although we always aim to provide a high quality service, occasionally there may be times when you feel that we have not met that standard. The SFO is always keen to improve how it works and welcomes any suggested improvements and complaints. We aim to deal with complaints effectively and efficiently in accordance with our Complaints Policy.  

What does our Complaints Policy cover?

This Complaints Policy covers complaints about:

  • Legal, investigative or operational decisions
  • The behaviour and conduct of our staff
  • Any action or inaction by the SFO/or staff affecting an individual or group of people who have had direct contact with the SFO.

 It does not cover:

How we will handle your complaint

Our internal Complaints Policy has three possible stages;

  • Stage 1 – Informal
  • Stage 2 – Review
  • Stage 3 – Further review

Complaints that relate to a legal, investigative or operational decision will only be dealt with by stages 1 and 2. Complaints about SFO conduct may also be considered in accordance with stage 3.

For complaints concerning victims’ entitlements under the Code of Practice for Victims of Crime, there is the option for an external stage once the SFO internal process has been exhausted

Stage 1 – Informal

In the first instance, all complaints should be attempted to be resolved with the member of staff at the SFO who has been involved in the issue about which you wish to complain. Contact that person to raise the complaint and they will attempt to resolve your concerns.  

Stage 2 – Review

If you are dissatisfied with the outcome of Stage 1 or if you feel that it would be inappropriate to contact the person involved directly, send your complaint in writing to either the email or postal address provided below. The Public Enquires/Correspondence team will acknowledge receipt of your complaint within 10 working days and ensure that it is dealt with by an appropriate person within the SFO. They will provide you with information regarding how long your complaint will take to be reviewed depending on the type of complaint.

Contact details

    The Correspondence Unit

    Serious Fraud Office

    2-4 Cockspur Street

    London

    SW1Y 5BS

The information you should provide

Please give us as much information as possible. Where relevant, you should include:

  • Your full name, address and preferred contact details
  • The name(s) of the employee(s) involved
  • Full details of the complaint (for example including times, dates, locations, forms of communication, SFO case reference)
  • Any documentary evidence to support your complaint
  • The outcome you are looking for

Your complaint will be reviewed by someone within the SFO who was not involved in the decision or conduct to which the complaint relates.

If the complaint is upheld then we will inform you and do our best to resolve the matter.  In some circumstances the review may be suspended if it is linked to ongoing legal proceedings until the conclusion of those proceedings.

If the complaint is not upheld we will inform you and explain the reasons why.

If the complaint relates to a legal, investigative or operational decision, then this is the final stage of the SFO complaints procedure.

Stage 3 – Further review

If the complaint relates to SFO conduct, actions or inaction and you are still dissatisfied with the SFO’s response, you may inform us by writing to the email or postal address provided above. An appropriate person within the SFO will conduct another review of the complaint.  That person will be of a more senior grade than the Stage 2 reviewer.

If the complaint is upheld then we will inform you and do our best to resolve the problem.

If the complaint is not upheld we will explain the reasons why.

External stage

At the end of the SFO complaints process, if you are still not satisfied with our response and the complaint relates to a breach of the Code of Practice for Victims of Crime, then you may complain to your MP who may refer the matter to the Parliamentary and Health Services Ombudsman

Victims Right to Review

If you are a victim of an offence into which the Director of the SFO opened a formal investigation, then the SFO is obliged to inform you of decisions relating to whether or not someone has been charged of the offence. More information for Victims and Witnesses can be found here.

According to the Code of Practice for Victims of Crime (October 2015) the definition of a victim is:

‘A person who has suffered harm, including physical, mental or emotional harm or economic loss which was directly caused by criminal conduct’.

If the SFO has made one of the following decisions in relation to your case and you are unsatisfied with that decision, then you have the right to ask for that decision to be reviewed.

  • Not to charge anyone in the case
  • To discontinue all charges (or withdraw in the magistrates’ court) thereby ending all proceedings
  • To leave all charges in the proceedings ‘to lie on file’ (this is the term used in circumstances where the SFO makes a decision not to proceed and requests that the charges be allowed ‘to lie on the file’ marked ‘not to be proceeded with without the leave of this Court or the Court of Appeal’).

The Victims’ Right to Review only applies to such decisions made by the SFO on or after 16 November 2015.

The Victims’ Right to Review does not cover

  • Cases where charges are brought in respect of some (but not all) allegations made or against some (but not all) possible suspects
  • Cases where a single charge or charges are terminated but another charge or related charges continue
  • Cases where proceedings against one (or more) defendants are terminated but related proceedings against other defendants continue
  • Cases where a single charge or charges are substantially altered but proceedings continue
  • Cases where some charges are left ‘to lie on file’
  • Cases where no evidence is offered
  • Cases where the victim has not had any contact with the SFO prior to the decision being made

Lodge a Request for a Review

Send your request for a review in writing to either the email or postal address provided below.

Requests should be made within 3 months of being told by the SFO about the decision not to prosecute.

The Public Enquires/Correspondence team will acknowledge receipt and ensure that it is dealt with by an appropriate person within the SFO.

Contact details

    The Correspondence Unit

    Serious Fraud Office

    2-4 Cockspur Street

    London

    SW1Y 5BS

The information you should provide

Please provide much information as possible. Where relevant, you should include:

  • Your full name, address and preferred contact details
  • The details of the case in which you were a victim
  • Details of the SFO case team with whom you have been liaising
  • Why you believe that the decision not to prosecute was incorrect.

Review

The review will be made in accordance with the Code for Crown Prosecutors.

This review will take approximately 4 months. If the review will take longer, then the SFO will inform you.

If the reviewer agrees that the decision not to prosecute was correct, then the SFO will inform you and where possible provide an explanation.

If the reviewer concludes that the decision not to prosecute was incorrect, then the case will be referred to the Director of the SFO for reconsideration. You will be informed of the final decision and where possible provided with an explanation.

If you are dissatisfied with the outcome of the VRR there is no opportunity for another review by the SFO.