Raymond Doherty 19 May 2017 10:22am

Lawyers slam May's plans to scrap SFO

Theresa May has revealed plans to abolish the independent Serious Fraud Office (SFO) should her party win the election

The decision to incorporate the SFO into the National Crime Agency (NCA), said the Conservative manifesto, would "strengthen Britain's response to white collar crime". May, in her previous role as home secretary, has attempted to shutter the SFO twice before.

In March this year the Cabinet Office announced that the SFO, along with HMRC and the Financial Conduct Authority, were under review.

Legal experts, however, have sharply criticised the move. “This is a dreadful decision. The NCA does not have the capability or the expertise to investigate complex, serious fraud, nor, I suspect, the desire. This is a real step back from the UK’s commitment to tackle serious economic crime," said Stephen Parkinson, head of criminal litigation at Kingsley Napley.

David Corker, partner at criminal and regulatory firm Corker Binning said that there is a "great danger that the fight against fraud would be compromised" if the SFO’s work was absorbed into the NCA.

"This ill-conceived manifesto one-liner seems to contradict the prime minister’s stated intent to take a global role in tackling corruption," said Robert Barrington, executive director Transparency International UK.

"The SFO has had increasing success in recent years; previous plans to abolish it have been discredited, and it is both astonishing and of real concern to see this surface again. If there are good reasons to abolish the SFO, they should be spelt out; if there is a proper plan to replace the SFO, it should be put out for consultation."

In a statement the SFO said,"This is a political pledge and we cannot comment. The organisation of law enforcement is a matter for ministers."