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Bribery Act is "exemplary legislation", peers say in report

14 March 2019

The Bribery Act 2010 is an "exemplary" piece of legislation which should be copied by other countries, a House of Lords committee has concluded.

In their post-legislative scrutiny report on the Act, the peers agreed with the view of witnesses and other contributors that the Act is working well, and is an example to other countries, especially developing countries.

In addition to criminalising the giviong or receiving of corrupt inducements, the Act makes it an offence for companies or partnerships to fail to prevent bribery by persons performing services on their behalf. It also covers acts of bribery (or the failure to prevent bribery) which take place partly, or even entirely, outside the UK, provided the alleged perpetrator is a British citizen or deemed to have a "close connection" with the UK.

With the Act having now been in force for nearly eight years, this inquiry was launched to examine whether it is achieving its intended purposes.

Among its key points the committee reports:

  • The structure of the Act, the offences it created, and its interaction with deferred prosecution agreements have been largely praised.
  • The Act is considered an international gold standard for anti-bribery and corruption legislation.
  • The Government must improve the advice it provides to small and medium-sized companies on how best to export their products and services while remaining compliant with the Bribery Act.
  • Lack of co-operation between the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), Serious Fraud Office (SFO), police, National Crime Agency, HMRC and others, as reported by witnesses, must be remedied.
  • The CPS and SFO should make speeding up bribery prosecutions a priority.
  • Deferred prosecution agreements are largely effective, and, when used appropriately, are not an "easy way out".

A number of recommendations are made to improve the operation of the Act. These include:

  • A lack of awareness of and training on the Bribery Act may be a contributing factor in the lack of bribery prosecutions. The City of London Police’s Economic Crime Academy should expand its anti-bribery training programme, and every police force should commit to ensuring it has at least one specialist.
  • The Government must ensure that UK companies are provided with support on corruption issues in the countries to which they export, by properly trained and instructed officials. Even the smaller UK embassies must have at least one official who is an expert in local customs and cultures, or who can rapidly contact officials of foreign government departments on behalf of companies facing problems in this field.
  • The Ministry of Justice should consider adding clearer examples to the guidance of when corporate hospitality is legitimate and when it is not.

Regarding deferred prosecution agreements (DPAs), which although not derived from the Bribery Act, allow cases to be settled without the companies involved being convicted of offences, the committee further concluded that discounts applied to financial penalties are appropriate to encourage companies to self-report but not so large as to deprive the penalty of its effectiveness; and that DPAs are not, and cannot be, a substitute for the prosecution of any individuals involved in corrupt conduct.

Committee chairman Lord Saville of Newdigate commented: "The Bribery Act 2010 is a model piece of legislation. Not a single witness had any major criticisms of the Act. It effectively defines offences in a clear and concise manner, and acts as a deterrent.

"While we make recommendations for a number of improvements to the Act, and hope that the Government takes these on board, the legislation is working well and the committee was greatly encouraged by the evidence received.”

Click here to access the committee's report and related papers.

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