R (Soma Oil and Gas Ltd) v Director of the Serious Fraud Office [2016] EWHC 2471 (Admin)


Held: As Andrews J pertinently observed when the Claimant’s (“Soma’s”) application for judicial review against the Defendant (“the SFO”) first came before her on the 10th August, 2016:

” …this is an extraordinary and, on the face of it, somewhat ambitious claim designed to require the SFO to bring an ongoing investigation to an end or at least to give an informal indication that it does not intend to take action against the Claimant… The Claimant faces a very high hurdle indeed….”

In the event, Andrews J having conducted an inter partes directions hearing on the 12th August, this Court, acting with expedition to assist the parties, heard the “rolled up hearing” on the 17th August.

On that occasion and having heard full argument, the Court stated its decision. Notwithstanding the formidable advocacy of Mr Perry QC for Soma, for which the Court was most grateful, the claim had no real prospect of success and permission was therefore refused. The Court nonetheless had some sympathy with the position in which Soma found itself and exhorted the SFO to proceed as expeditiously as possible, keeping the remaining strands of the investigation under review. The Court further expressed the hope that the exceptional letter written by the SFO to Soma’s solicitors, dated 16th August, 2016 (“the 16th August letter”) would provide some comfort or assistance to Soma. The Court indicated that a judgment would be produced; this is the judgment.

Though this judgment reflects no more than the Court’s refusal to grant permission to proceed with Soma’s claim for judicial review, given the Court’s reiteration of the very high hurdle to be overcome when seeking to challenge the decisions of investigators and insofar as it is necessary to do so, the Court certifies that this decision may be cited as authoritative.