The Bribery Act received Royal Assent in April 2010. This expansive piece of legislation was introduced not only following recognition that the old law governing bribery was old and lacked clarity, but also in the wake of significant controversies (including the ‘cash for questions’ scandal and the dropping of the BAE Systems prosecution purportedly on the grounds of national security).
The 2010 Act both updated and reformed the anti-bribery framework. It contains a robust range of offences: bribing a person; being bribed; bribing foreign officials; and failure to prevent bribery. The Act extends to activity that takes place in the UK ‘or elsewhere’. Significantly, not only can the company itself be prosecuted, but so too can individual officials (with penalties up to 10 years imprisonment).
In March 2019, the House of Lords Select Committee on the Bribery Act described the Act as ‘an excellent piece of legislation which creates offences which are clear and all-encompassing’. It continued to say: ‘the Act is an example to other countries, especially developing countries, of what is needed to deter bribery.’ Notwithstanding such positive endorsements, however, there remain concerns. Questions remain as to whether the Act is being ‘adequately enforced’; collection of data is inconsistent across police forces; until 2019, there was no publicly available information on numbers of prosecutions/ convictions; the number of prosecutions appears to be low; there are ongoing issues with both under-resourcing and delays of enforcement agencies (particularly where large-scale and/or complex cases are being investigated); there remain issues with a lack of awareness of the Act on the part of police officials; and inter-agency cooperation is weak (House of Lords Select Committee, 2019).
The Centre for Financial Law, Regulation and Compliance (FinReg) has organised a series of webinars to discuss and analyse the Bribery Act, ten years on from its enactment.
Professor Tina Søreide, Norwegian School of Economics.
Chair: Barnaby Hone, IALS Visiting Professor of Practice.
Author: School of Advanced Study
Organisations: Institute of Advanced Legal Studies
Event date: Tuesday, 17 November 2020 - 5:00pm
Visit the event page