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Ministry of Justice announces Bribery Act

Ministry of Justice

The Ministry of Justice announced last month that the Bribery Act will come into force in April 2011


But what will be the implications for UK organisations?  Research conducted by Eversheds found that in a poll of 694 executives, 60% were unaware that under the Act, failing to prevent bribery is a corporate offence.  91% were ignorant of the maximum penalty under the Act, namely a ten year jail sentence.

This lack of understanding means bribery could potentially become big business for law firms with organisations facing corporate fraud and bribery prosecutions.

In summary, the Act introduces four new offences:

  1. an offence of active bribery, including giving or offering a bribe, whether in the public or private sector
  2. an offence of passive bribery, including agreeing to receive or accept a bribe
  3. an offence of bribing a foreign public official
  4. a corporate offence which applies when a commercial organisation fails to prevent bribery

The potential minefield that this Act opens up is massive.  Law firms will be advising clients on the scope of the Act in relation to legal liability and risk.  Every organisation will need to undertake its own risk assessment and follow this up with a detailed programme putting in place appropriate anti-bribery processes and procedures which match the identified risks.

Philip Henson, a partner at solicitors Bargate Murray emphasises the upside to the arrival of the Act, “people will come to see anti-bribery provisions in the same light as Corporate Social Responsibility, as a new seal of approval for a modern business”, he says.

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