Author: Amy Collins
A former magistrates’ court clerk has become the first person to be sentenced under the Bribery Act 2010 and the Courts have sent a clear message.
On 18 November 2011, Munir Patel, who admitted that he was paid £500 not to record a driving offence, was given a three year sentence under the Bribery Act 2010 and a six year sentence for misconduct in public office (to be served concurrently).
His sentencing for three years for bribery under the new Bribery Act indicates that the Courts are willing to impose significant sentences for bribery.
Gaon Hart for the Crown Prosecution Service (Special Crime and Counter Terrorism Division) is reported to have said: “This prosecution is the first of its kind under the Bribery Act 2010, which has provided a significant weapon in the armoury of prosecutors that enables us to focus on the bribery element rather than general misconduct behaviour”.
As we reported previously (www.fladgate.com/BriberyAct2010), there are four criminal offences relating to bribery under the Bribery Act 2010. Three of the key offences under the Act (which are punishable by an unlimited fine, imprisonment of up to 10 years or both) are largely restatements of existing law:
The fourth key offence under the Act is the wholly new corporate offence of failing to prevent bribery (which is punishable by an unlimited fine).
It was this fourth offence that caused most concern around the time that the Act came into force on 1 July 2011. A relevant commercial organisation will be guilty of an offence if a person associated with it bribes another person intending to obtain or retain business, or to obtain or retain an advantage in the conduct of business, for the organisation. An "associated person" is very widely defined by the Act and may, for example, include employees, agents, subsidiaries, joint venture partners and suppliers. An organisation may therefore incur liability as a result of the actions of a wide variety of people, for which it would not ordinarily assume itself to be responsible.
The only defence to the new corporate offence of failure to prevent bribery is to show that an organisation has "adequate procedures" in place to prevent employees, agents and other associated persons from committing bribery. The Government has issued helpful guidance on what constitutes adequate procedures (please see our legal update at: www.fladgate.com/BriberyAct2010_Guidance).
The recent sentencing of Mr Patel is a clear sign that the Courts are willing to prosecute and impose robust sentences under the Bribery Act 2010 and reinforces the need for organisations to implement appropriate and risk based anti-bribery procedures throughout their business.
For further information please contact: Amy Collins, Partner, Fladgate LLP (+44 (0)20 3036 7263)