Serious Fraud Office – Strategic 5-year plan

Written 7th May 2024 by Martha Odysseos

The SFO published its 5-year plan on the 18th of April 2024, following on from director, Nick Ephgrave’s, first major public speech since taking over the reins late last year. The SFO have come under increased criticism in recent years because of their approach and apparent and often very public failures, particularly in relation to some of their most long running investigations which have ultimately been closed down without any further action despite the vast amounts of money and resources pumped into them over many years. This plan seems intended to avoid such criticism from plaguing the new regime under Mr Ephgrave. However, how much of this is new and ‘strategic’ will be something to consider.

The plan includes 4 outcomes that reflect what the SFO wants to achieve. These are to:

  • Have a highly specialised, engaged and skilled workforce;
  • Be ready and able to harness the technology and tools of a changing world;
  • Combat crime effectively through intelligence, enforcement and prevention; and
  • Be a proactive, authoritative player in the global and domestic justice system.

The plan will be tracked against justice outcomes, operational delivery, organizational strength and resilience, as well as, finance. The SFO state they will conduct a formal review of the plan in 2026/2027 in order to ensure that it remains relevant to their goals.


The plan places an emphasis on the SFO’s current workforce. Indeed, the SFO are aware of the need to attract and retain a range of individuals, including lawyers, investigators, and forensic accountants. It acknowledges that fewer people are choosing to enter or stay in criminal law or policing despite the long-term demand in certain areas, without much thought of how the SFO are going to overcome this issue. Although the SFO states that they will build the resilience of their operating model, set expectations for core and specialist skills whilst providing additional support to their staff, there is no layout of how this will be implemented. They also state that they will strengthen learning and development as well and build on their commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion.


There is an increased awareness of the use of tools from AI to crypto assets used in fraudulent offences which make it more difficult to prevent fraud. The SFO propose to use the benefit of technology to review evidence as well as contact and support witnesses. They also aim to strengthen their ability to monitor and forecast developments in technology and trial new and innovative tools.

Combat Crime Effectively

The SFO understand that they need to deepen their use of intelligence and ensure that they contribute to the national intelligence picture. They also propose using ‘covert’ tactics more frequently. The plan also proposes that they need to be more open and innovative in pursuing alternatives to formal prosecution where appropriate, increasing their use of Deferred Prosecution Agreements.

The SFO aims are to test new prevention methods, drive efficiency and effectiveness and maximise the use of tools they already have. They will also explore incentivisation options for whistleblowers and continue to push for a disclosure regime ‘fit for today’s challenges’.

Proactive, authoritative player in the global and domestic justice system

The SFO wish to build strong and trustworthy relationships with international partners.

Whilst this 5 year plan is ambitious, it is still rather unclear what changes the SFO will make to achieve these goals. It will be interesting to see whether sufficient funding and resources are made available to, make these ambitions become a reality.


Our specialist defence solicitors have many years’ experience assisting those facing allegations of fraud including those investigated by the SFO, HMRC and other regulatory bodies. If you find yourself in such a situation, get in touch as soon as possible and let our nationally recognised team help you navigate the often stressful and lengthy process.

Martha Odysseos



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