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The seven-year case which needed a 200-page disclosure management plan


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Ian Weinfass reports on some of the internal lessons learned from one of the largest complex frauds in history.

HBOS manager Lynden Scourfield at his first police interview in 2010. He would be jailed seven years later

HBOS manager Lynden Scourfield at his first police interview in 2010. He would be jailed seven years later

Date - 7th November 2018
By - Ian Weinfass - Police Oracle


In 2016, one of the largest complex fraud cases went to court, with five men and a woman eventually jailed the following year for the £245 million scam.

Thames Valley Police’s investigation into the crimes had actually begun in 2010 – and was nearly complete three years later.

“We were capable of bringing charges in 2013," Detective Chief Inspector Tim Hurley, the deputy senior investigating officer (SIO) in the case, explained. "From then we were dealing with disclosure."

The biggest investigation in the force's history eventually saw defendants including HBOS manager Lynden Scourfield and consultant David Mills jailed.

Reading-based Scourfield was supposed to help the bank advise struggling companies, but he made them appoint Mills as an advisor at a high cost while running the firms into the ground, siphoning off profits made on small business owners' hardship.

The bank tried to evict several of those from their homes.

The scam was uncovered by some of the victims, whose complaints were ignored by HBOS.

One victim who would expose the crime, Nikki Turner, told the BBC after the case: “Instead of protecting and supporting the victims of this scam they would persecute them, they would blame the customers, and that’s what they’ve done for 10 years and they’ve stuck to this story for 10 years.

“We’ve been through 10 years of hell and so have lots of other victims.”

But the extent of the crimes would only gradually emerge as investigators set about their work.

Detective Chief Inspector Tim Hurley, who has been promoted since he was deputy SIO on the case, recalled: “When I started off this investigation, nobody knew where it was going. We thought it was going to be quite contained. The superintendent thought it would be finished by Christmas, but we found ourselves kept getting sucked into a hole and we just couldn’t get out of it.”

Layer after layer transpired, along with an increasing number of victims, leading investigators to work flat out building a water-tight case.

There were so many documents and other pieces of evidence that the force had to draft in temporary staff including data inputters to have the material sifted and in good enough shape to be used.

Things began to go their way with the contradictory responses given by the main suspects in interview, as can be seen in the video below, but it would still be years before they faced court.


There were numerous issues which made the investigation a huge challenge including:

  • Witnesses and suspects living all over the UK, Europe and in the US.
  • Difficulties getting enough, and suitable, people to work on the case. “That adds to the national debate that goes on about fraud and whether there should be a national perspective on this,” Det Chief Insp Hurley said.
  • The lack of an appropriate case management system for such a crime. HOLMES was used for exhibits and actions, but a different process was needed overall.

On top of that, once the investigation got going, it was clear it was of huge importance and the associated pressure mounted on those involved.

The deputy SIO said: “Press, media, public, MPs, PCCs, you name it, everybody was getting involved and wanting to know what was going on. The bank […] the CPS, […] disclosure as well.

“We ended up with what I call a pseudo-European approach. We found that CPS and barristers were very much at the forefront of the stuff that went on going towards court [to overcome disclosure issues].”

The disclosure management plan was 200 pages long.

He added: “We went far beyond what you would normally expect to do with disclosure. [But] we didn’t have any problems whatsoever at the trial with it and you can bet your bottom dollar if there had been an issue with a job like this, with all that material, that we would have lost it on disclosure. So, it worked.”

People were in tears

Det Chief Insp Hurley, speaking at the Police Federation National Detective Forum conference, reflected on how hard the huge case was for his team.

He said: “I can honestly tell you this, we had people in tears at times on the job because of the pressure that they were under.

“I put my hands up, as deputy SIO at the beginning I underestimated the impact this type of investigation would have because of the mental torture and stress people were under.

“I put in what I thought was a reasonable strategy to deal with it, I identified signs and dealt with it through welfare support.

“Where I took my eye off the ball is people who weren’t showing the signs, people who just get on with it because they keep going and don’t cause a problem and keep going, keep going and keep going. If I went through that again, the strategy would be across the board regardless of the individual - they would all be getting that support network.”

He said that a clear health and safety assessment and wellbeing strategy is crucial for big cases, in particular, for detectives. “They work in the shadows, they work in the background and they don’t make a fuss generally,” he added.

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With such long term and complex investigations you wonder what happens to the officers’ promotion and development in other areas.  Great respect for the whole team on such a cimolexmayter

He summed up well what several recent cases have fallen at - a robust disclosure process.  

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