One of the key criticisms levelled by a number of influential international groups such as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and Transparency International, accused the previous legislation of being too focused on settlements rather than prosecutions.

The figures speak for themselves. Under the old legislation there were a remarkably low number of prosecutions brought. Between 2001 and 2005 only seven defendants faced proceedings under the Public Bodies Corrupt Practices Act 1889. The Prevention of Corruption Act 1906 saw just 33 cases brought during the same period.

Furthermore, the OECD also denigrated the UK’s anti-bribery authorities for failing to enforce some of the terms of the OECD’s Anti-Bribery Convention. According to the OECD, the UK had a disjointed and under-resourced approach to anti-bribery issues and also substantially failed to adequately prosecute its multinational companies for instances of overseas bribery.

As a response to those criticisms the Bribery Act 2010 was passed in the dying days of the last Labour government before coming into force in the summer of 2011 to much fanfare. Ultimately the Act was designed to overhaul the UK’s approach to bribery, both at home and abroad. The Act was also intended to take its place alongside the US’ Foreign Corrupt Practices Act as one of the worlds two most pre-eminent and powerful anti-bribery legislations tackling international corruption. The Act, which is enforced chiefly by the UK’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO), set out to “rebalance the relationship between prosecution and civil settlement”. 

Oct-Dec 2013 issue

Richard Summerfield