We are now almost a year down the line from the implementation of the Bribery Act 2010 in July 2011 and the flurry of activity from last summer has somewhat died down. The Act created a criminal offence of failure by a commercial organisation to prevent bribery being carried out by a person working on its behalf. It also provided for a defence, however, for an employer to prove that despite a particular case of bribery, it nevertheless had adequate procedures in place to prevent people associated with it from bribing.
The impact of the Act was quickly felt with the first prosecution coming within three months of implementation: in October 2011, Munir Patel was convicted of bribery for an offence that occurred only weeks after the Act had come into force. He pleaded guilty to requesting and receiving a bribe intending to improperly perform his functions. As a court administrative clerk, his charges involved offering to influence the outcome of a court case – a speeding charge – in exchange for £500. He was sentenced to 3 years imprisonment for bribery, to run concurrently with a 6 year sentence for misconduct in a public office.
The gravity of the sentencing has created fear amongst employers in relation to their everyday operations. Businesses often give a case of wine to a long serving and committed customer as a thank you for their continued custom, or to a supplier at Christmas.
Government guidance to the Act specifically stipulates that gifts and hospitality, where they are not intended to induce or reward impropriety, are not considered to be acts of bribery. Therefore, employers need not worry excessively if the gifts they provide are intended purely to reward past good service and not in order to induce or reward improper performance. It is advisable, however, to keep a log of all gifts provided by your company, and of those received by your staff in connection with work.
The guidance also pointed to six key areas where businesses must act in order to maintain an ethos of anti-bribery in their organisation, and to provide themselves with a robust defence against failure to prevent one of their employees from committing an act of bribery. These areas are:
• Proportionate procedures;
• Top level commitment;
• Risk assessment;
• Due Diligence;
• Monitoring and review.
For any further information, please call our 24 Hour Advice Service on 0844 892 2772.