Prosecutions for failing to prevent bribery are on the increase.

April 2022 saw the first successful prosecution by the Crown Prosecution Service following an investigation by the Metropolitan Police into offences of failing to prevent bribery contrary to section 7 of the U.K.'s Bribery Act 2010 (UKBA). The offence under Section 7 is not aimed at those who make or receive corrupt payments but at businesses that fail to take proper steps to prevent bribery within their organisation.

The success of the prosecution was hardly a surprise in this case not least because one of the main recipients had clearly documented corrupt payments received in a spreadsheet entitled "slush". The significance of the case is more that the Crown Prosecution Service and police were involved in prosecuting. To date such matters have been confined to the remit of the Serious Fraud Office or the National Crime Agency and as such prosecutions have been rare. The fact that the Crown Prosecution Service and the police have now shown a willingness to get involved would suggest that investigations and prosecutions are likely to increase.

The only defence to an allegation of failing to prevent bribery in an organisation is to be able to demonstrate you have adequate procedures in place to prevent it. The case should act as a timely reminder to all businesses to ensure that they have robust policies, controls and procedures in place to deal with corruption. Without them you are at serious risk.

Those businesses that drafted a policy when the act first came into force only to allow it to gather dust ever since are unlikely to satisfy the “adequate procedures” test.

Policies and risk assessments need to be reviewed regularly, gift and hospitality registers properly maintained, staff trained and businesses need to be able to demonstrate a commitment towards preventing corruption from the highest level within the organisational structure.  All of this needs to be documented.  Failure to do so not only risks reputational damage but can lead to severe penalties. One of the companies in this particular case was fined £500,000.

In the event that you do become the subject of an investigation in relation to UKBA you should immediately seek specialist legal advice.

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