Victims and Prisoners Bill

Written evidence submitted by Spotlight on Corruption (VPB21)

1. Spotlight on Corruption [1] ("Spotlight") is an anti-corruption charity that works to ensure the UK has strong anti-corruption laws which are robustly enforced. We also work to ensure that the victims of corruption are properly represented and compensated, recognising the immense harm that corruption does to society.

2. We welcome the government’s aim of "delivering a cultural shift in victims’ experiences by putting their interests at the heart of the justice system".

3. However, we are concerned that victims of complex economic and financial crime, such as corruption, are currently finding it far too hard to achieve recognition, and receive support and compensation.

4. Furthermore, we think the Bill is a major opportunity to improve whistleblower protection in the UK, by ensuring that whistleblowers can be recognised as victims, given the often critical role they play in providing witness evidence for criminal trials. This would enable them to seek compensation in criminal trials that have resulted from their evidence, and allow them to make a victim impact statement.

5. In our view, the Bill would be significantly enhanced by amendments to the following effect:

5.1. Ensuring that victims of complex and financial crime, and victims of corruption including from other jurisdictions, can be recognised as victims and compensated by establishing that compensation can be granted in complex cases rather than just simple ones; and

5.2. The explicit recognition that whistleblowers can be victims in criminal trials resulting from evidence they have provided.

Ensuring victims of complex financial and economic crime, including overseas corruption can be compensated

6. As a State Party to the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC), the UK is required to ensure that:

6.1. views of victims are considered in criminal proceedings; [2]

6.2. those who have suffered damage from corruption can take legal action to obtain compensation; [3]

6.3. UK courts can order compensation or damages to another State party harmed by corrupt offences; [4] and

6.4. "priority consideration" is given to returning confiscated proceeds of corruption to a State that requests it or its legitimate owners or to "compensating the victims of the crime". [5]

7. In 2018, UK law enforcement bodies (specifically the SFO, CPS and NCA) adopted "General Principles to compensate overseas victims (including affected States) in bribery, corruption and economic crime cases" ("Compensation Principles"). [6]

8. Over the last five years, Spotlight has monitored the implementation of the 2018 Compensation Principles and found that unfortunately, they have not led to greater levels of compensation for victims of corruption. Compensation has for instance only ever been granted in 2 out of 12 Deferred Prosecution Agreements (DPA) by the SFO, and the amounts returned to countries of origin were very low. Most recently, this included a payment of £210,610 to the people of Nigeria, after the SFO entered into a DPA with Amec Foster Wheeler in July 2021, for which the company was fined £103 million. [7]

9. Although criminal courts are obliged to consider the question of compensation after conviction, [8] the bar for achieving compensation orders is high. Current case law holds that compensation is only intended for "clear and simple cases", [9] (also described as "the simple, straightforward case"). [10] However, economic and financial crime, including corruption, is inherently complex. This means that it is much harder for victims of economic and financial crime to get recognition and support, as well as compensation, in these cases.

10. Additionally, the courts have held that compensation will not be awarded "where there are real issues as to whether those to benefit have suffered any, and if so, what loss". [11] Identifying victims and quantifying loss suffered in complex economic and financial crime cases can be time-consuming and resource-intensive particularly for over-stretched and under-resourced law enforcement bodies. The end result is that the current case law disincentives law enforcement from taking proactive steps to identify victims, and that the more complex and egregious the offending, the less likely any support for victims or compensation will be paid.

11. In our view, in order to address this, Parliament should work with the government to create a statutory basis upon which victims of complex economic and financial crime, including victims of corruption, can be properly recognised by the courts. This should include a clear steer from Parliament that compensation can (and indeed must) be considered by the courts in complex cases, and a review of whether and how victims can submit evidence of compensation to the courts without the prosecutor being the sole gatekeeper to the court.

Explicit recognition that whistleblowers can be victims

12. Whistleblowers play a critical role in bringing to light evidence that can lead to criminal prosecutions. There is widespread recognition that current protections are not sufficient for whistleblowers. Additionally, there is significant academic research now that shows that providing compensation for whistleblowers significantly enhances the detection of crime and improves the quality of enforcement outcomes. [12]

13. Recognition that whistleblowers can be victims specifically in cases where their evidence has resulted in a successful criminal prosecution, would enable whistleblowers to present victim impact statements to court in these cases and to claim compensation. This would be particularly beneficial in cases brought against corporate bodies or institutions.

14. In our view, Parliament should work with the government through this Bill to create a statutory basis upon which whistleblowers whose evidence has resulted in a criminal prosecution can be recognised as victims.

June 2023

[1] See our website:

[2] Article 32 of the UNCAC

[3] Article 35 of the UNCAC

[4] Article 53(b) of the UNCAC

[5] Article 57(3c) of the UNCAC


[7] Director of the Serious Fraud Office v Amec Foster Wheeler Energy Limited:

[8] Section 130 of the Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000

[9] ​​R v Michael Brian Kneeshaw (1974) 58 Cr App R 439

[10] R v Kenneth Donovan (1981) 3 Cr App R (S) 192

[11] R v Ben Stapylton [2012] EWCA Crim 728

[12] ; ; for an overview of these papers, see


Prepared 22nd June 2023