Bribery Act & Proceeds of Crime - Written by on Tuesday, August 23, 2011 23:29 - 0 Comments

Targeting overseas bribery? Don’t forget domestic bribery risk – it will be prosecuted

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By Neil McInnes, Senior Associate, Pinsent Masons

Much has been written about the Bribery Act as a response to criticism of the UK’s lack of enforcement of overseas corruption and the SFO approach to dealing with it.

Notwithstanding this it would be a mistake to ignore corruption risks at home.

Following the introduction of the Anti-terrorism Crime & Security Act 2001 (which allowed the old laws to be used to prosecute some bribery abroad) it was not until 2008 that there were any convictions under these extended provisions – and there have only been a handful of other criminal prosecutions (or civil settlements using the UK money laundering legislation) since in relation to cases with a bribery flavour.

Readers of the Government Guidance on Adequate Procedures might be forgiven for thinking the Bribery Act was all about remedying the overseas corruption “gap”.

Of the 11 Case Studies at the end of the Guidance, only one relates specifically to UK domestic anti-corruption measures (Case Study 2 if you blinked and missed it).

So will the Bribery Act in real life just be about tackling overseas corruption?

Not quite.  Unlike its closest relative the Bribery Act is not just about “foreign” bribery.

Companies should not forget their domestic compliance agenda.

On top of the well publicised international cases and notwithstanding the difficulties of prosecuting under the old law there have always been domestic bribery cases brought.

It is likely that the improvements in the new law, simplifying prosecutions and removing Victorian era terminology (as well as of course the new corporate offence), will have at least as much impact on domestic enforcement trends as those for overseas corruption.


Because like overseas corruption, examples of domestic bribery cases start from a very low base in terms of total numbers through the Courts.

They are dwarfed by the statistics for general fraud offences.  We’ve dug out the Government statistics for the old law that were published in Parliament in 2009. They do not include any numbers for the common law offence of bribery (because these were not collected) – but they stretch for a 10 year period from 1998 to 2007 so give a useful impression of how much activity there was in this area from the Crown Prosecution Service.

What is striking is that they show a markedly similar pattern to overseas corruption cases since 2008. It is a handful of cases – the whole of England & Wales was averaging just 12.2 corruption convictions a year from 1998 to 2007. Its not clear how many of these convictions fell in the same proceedings – which would of course reduce the number of separate cases overall.

The number of persons found guilty at all courts for offences relating to bribery in England and Wales, 1998 to 2007
Statute 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007
Prevention of Corruption Act 1906 S.1 11 8 20 11 19 6 4 1 10 12
Public Bodies Corrupt Practices Act 1889 S.1(l) and 1.(2) 6 3 5 2 1 3

Ref: HC Hansard 28 Apr 2009 : Column 1253W

We predict an increase in cases of domestic bribery brought before the courts and we anticipate that a good proportion of these cases are likely to be brought by the CPS and not necessarily the SFO.

It would be a mistake to focus all efforts on overseas corruption and take an eye off the ball at home.

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