Complaints policy and Victims’ Right to Review
The proper handling of complaints is vital to ensuring the SFO consistently delivers a high-quality service in our mission to fight complex financial crime, deliver justice for victims and protect the UK’s reputation as a safe place to do business.
We want to know if our service or conduct falls short of what you expect. We recognise that complaints are a valuable source of feedback and provide an opportunity for us to improve. Our aim is to have a process that is clear, accessible and well managed so that decisions are taken promptly, things put right where necessary and lessons learnt for the future.
What is a complaint?
A complaint is an expression of dissatisfaction about our service or conduct. This policy covers complaints about:
- How you have been treated
- The behaviour of our staff
- Action or lack of action by the SFO
- Legal, investigative and operational decisions
It does not cover:
- Matters which have already been dealt with under this policy
- Anonymous complaints or complaints from people who have not been in direct contact with the SFO
- Complaints about access to information where procedures are set out in legislation such as the Freedom of Information Act, UK General Data Protection Regulation or Data Protection Act
- Matters that are, or have been, subject to legal proceedings before a court or tribunal
There is a separate procedure if you are a victim of crime who wishes to exercise the right to request a review of certain decisions which have the effect of ending an investigation or prosecution, or preventing a prosecution from being brought. This procedure is called the Victims’ Right to Review and is explained below.
Timing of complaints
Complaints should be made within six months of the matter complained of.
How to complain
If you want to complain, you are encouraged to contact the team or staff member involved. They will attempt to resolve the matter informally or confirm that the matter will be treated as a formal complaint under stage 1 of the formal complaints procedure.
Stage 1: Formal complaint
If you remain dissatisfied after contacting that team or staff member, or do not wish to contact them, you may make a formal complaint. This is done by contacting our public enquiries team (details below) and providing the following information:
- Your name, address and preferred contact details
- What happened, when it happened and details of any SFO staff involved
- Relevant letters, emails or other documents
- The outcome you are looking for
We will acknowledge your complaint within five working days and aim to respond fully within 28 days where possible. The acknowledgement will include the target date for our response, information about the likely timescale for responding or confirmation that this information will be provided at a later date. If we cannot respond within the original time estimate, we will let you know and provide an indication of when the response can be expected.
We will look into what happened and this will usually include communicating with any staff involved.
If the complaint is upheld, we will inform you and do our best to resolve the matter. If it is not upheld, we will inform you and explain the reasons why.
Stage 2: Review
If you are dissatisfied with the response provided at stage 1, you may ask for your complaint to be reviewed. This must be done within 28 days of our response by contacting our public enquiries team (details below). Please include the reasons for your dissatisfaction.
We will acknowledge your request for a review within five working days and aim to respond within 28 days. The acknowledgement will include the target date for our response, information about the likely timescale for responding or confirmation that this information will be provided at a later date. If we cannot respond within the original time estimate, we will let you know and provide an indication of when the response can be expected.
If the complaint is upheld on review, we will inform you and do our best to resolve the matter. If the complaint is not upheld on review, we will inform you and explain the reasons why.
This is the end of the complaints procedure. The only exception is if you are a victim of crime whose complaint relates to a breach of the Code of Practice for Victims of Crime, in which case you may ask your MP to refer the matter to the Parliamentary and Health Services Ombudsman.
Public enquiries team contact details
The public enquiries team can be contacted as follows:
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Post: Correspondence Unit, Serious Fraud Office, 2-4 Cockspur Street, London, SW1Y 5BS
NOTE: This policy relates to complaints received on or after 26 October 2021. Complaints received prior to this date will continue to be processed in accordance with the procedure set out in the previous complaints policy.
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’.
The SFO also permit business victims who have had a criminal offence committed against them the right to request a Victims’ Right to Review.
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 that have not been formally accepted for investigation by the Director of the SFO
- Cases where a suspect has not been identified or notified of the SFO investigation
- Cases where the suspect has not been interviewed by the SFO
- 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 the SFO offers no evidence
- 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.
The Correspondence Unit
Serious Fraud Office
2-4 Cockspur Street
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.
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 Victims’ Right to Review there is no opportunity for another review by the SFO.