This guidance was revised in October 2012.
Whether or not the SFO will prosecute a corporate body in a given case will be governed by the Full Code Test in the Code for Crown Prosecutors, the joint prosecution Guidance on Corporate Prosecutions and, where relevant, the Joint Prosecution Guidance of the Director of the SFO and the Director of Public Prosecutions on the Bribery Act 2010.
If on the evidence there is a realistic prospect of conviction, the SFO will prosecute if it is in the public interest to do so. The fact that a corporate body has reported itself will be a relevant consideration to the extent set out in the Guidance on Corporate Prosecutions. That Guidance explains that, for a self-report to be taken into consideration as a public interest factor tending against prosecution, it must form part of a “genuinely proactive approach adopted by the corporate management team when the offending is brought to their notice”. Self-reporting is no guarantee that a prosecution will not follow. Each case will turn on its own facts.
In appropriate cases the SFO may use its powers under proceeds of crime legislation as an alternative (or in addition) to prosecution; see the Attorney General’s guidance to prosecuting bodies on their asset recovery powers under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002. If the SFO uses its powers under proceeds of crime legislation, it will publish its reasons, the details of the illegal conduct and the details of the disposal.
In cases where the SFO does not prosecute a self-reporting corporate body, the SFO reserves the right (i) to prosecute it for any unreported violations of the law; and (ii) lawfully to provide information on the reported violation to other bodies (such as foreign police forces).
This statement of policy has immediate effect. It supersedes any statement of policy or practice on self-reporting previously made by or on behalf of the SFO.
The SFO’s restatement of policy on corporate self reporting explains that, in determining whether or not to prosecute, the fact that a corporate body has reported itself will be a relevant consideration to the extent set out in the Guidance on Corporate Prosecutions.
According to the guidance, for a self-report to be taken into account as a public interest factor tending against prosecution it must form part of a genuinely proactive approach adopted by the corporate management team when the offending is brought to their notice, involving self-reporting and remedial actions, including the compensation of victims. The guidance also explains that, in considering whether a self-reporting corporate body has been genuinely proactive, prosecutors will consider whether it has provided sufficient information, including making witnesses available and disclosing the details of any internal investigation, about the operation of the corporate body in its entirety.
Prosecutors will also be mindful that a failure to report the wrongdoing within a reasonable time of the offending coming to light is a public interest factor in favour of a prosecution. It should be borne in mind that the SFO may have information about wrongdoing from sources other than the corporate body’s own self-report. The timing of any self-report is therefore very important. A failure to report properly and fully the true extent of the wrongdoing a further public interest factor in favour of a prosecution.
The following is an outline of the process to be adopted by corporate bodies and/or their advisers when self-reporting to the Serious Fraud Office.
- Initial contact, and all subsequent communication, must be made through the SFO’s Intelligence Unit, through the secure reporting form. The Intelligence Unit is the only business area within the SFO authorised to handle self-reports.
- Hard copy reports setting out the nature and scope of any internal investigation must be provided to the SFO’s Intelligence Unit as part of the self-reporting process.
- All supporting evidence including, but not limited to emails, banking evidence and witness accounts, must be provided to the SFO’s Intelligence Unit as part of the self-reporting process.
- Further supporting evidence may be provided during the course of any ongoing internal investigation.
As stated within the SFO’s revised statement of principle, self-reporting is no guarantee that a prosecution will not follow. Each case will turn on its own facts. Apart from the information provided above, the SFO will not advise companies or their advisers on the format required for self-reports. Nor will the SFO give any advice on the likely outcome of a self-report until the completion of that process.