“Under Lisa Osofsky, the SFO has had some successes, particularly regarding the agency’s use of deferred prosecution agreements as an alternative to bringing prosecutions but also in a number of other high-profile cases.
“But her tenure has been controversial. There have been investigations marred by bad judgement as well as some major failures at crucial times.
“This was most notable during the Unaoil investigation. An independent report by Sir David Calvert-Smith into that case found a litany of SFO failings – most notably regarding disclosure – and fell just short of saying that the Director had made an inappropriate decision to have contact with a third party acting as a “fixer’’ in the case.
“Lisa Osofsky has, however, had to grapple with a number of issues that she inherited, as her predecessor did before her; especially in relation to litigation against the SFO.
“With everything that has gone on, her not seeking a new term may be beneficial for the agency. Bringing in someone new that has a new mandate – and no cloud over their head – is a sensible next step for the SFO to regain its momentum. There is arguably a need within the agency for some fresh blood at the very top and some new thinking.
“The Calvert-Smith report into the SFO’s Unaoil failings highlighted systemic failures in the agency’s ways of working. It may be an appropriate time for a new person at the head of the SFO to act as the new broom that sweeps clean and ushers in different, more suitable working methods.
“It is certainly about time that we saw the SFO operating at the same high levels as some of its counterparts, such as the US Department of Justice. Although whether the Americanisation of the SFO that Osofsky ushered in will stop with her departure remains to be seen.
“There is also a need for the SFO to focus on prosecutions of individuals after corporates have been held to account – something that has happened all too rarely.’’
Aziz Rahman, Senior Partner at Rahman Ravelli