First sentencing under the Bribery Act 2010

Sentencing has taken place in the first ever prosecution under the Bribery Act 2010. Munir Patel, a court clerk at Redbridge Magistrates Court pleaded guilty to accepting bribes contrary to s.2 of the Bribery Act 2010. Section 2(1) of the Bribery Act states that a person is guilty of an offence if they request, agree to receive, or accept a financial or other advantage intending that a relevant function or activity should be performed improperly. In his position as court clerk, Mr Patel accepted £500 from an undercover reporter in return for influencing the course of criminal proceedings relating to a motoring offence.

At Southwark Crown Court, His Honour Judge McCreath sentenced Mr Patel to three years in prison for the bribery offence and six years to run concurrently for misconduct in public office. Of note was the judge's remarks concerning the absence of sentencing guidelines for the new Bribery Act offence.

Whilst the prosecution was against an individual and not related to business activities, the case is a timely reminder to directors and boards of companies who have not yet addressed bribery risks. Under s.14 of the Act, individual criminal liability can attach to directors and senior officers of companies if they consent to or connive in corporate bribery. The SFO has recently made it clear that they are keen to prosecute s.14 cases against directors and senior officers of companies where there is knowledge of bribery occurring but it is permitted to continue.

Where bribery has taken place, individual criminal liability for directors can also arise under the Proceeds of Crime Act if bribery is discovered but a choice is made to "sweep it under the carpet". Penalties under the Proceeds of Crime Act are even higher than the Bribery Act with unlimited fines and up to 14 years imprisonment.

With the SFO confirming at the beginning of November that it is already engaged in Bribery Act enforcement activity and the new facility for employees to report bribery direct to the SFO, it is only a matter of time before we see the first corporate prosecution.

This article was first written by Bond Dickinson and has been reproduced with their permission. Bond Dickinson are a leading UK business law firm, to find out more go to www.bonddickinson.com.