New anti-bribery legislation comes into force

1 July 2011

1 July 2011 | Angeline Albert

From today, businesses must have “adequate procedures” to prevent bribery in their organisations, under a new law to combat corruption.

The Bribery Act 2010 creates four new criminal offences – in essence bribing someone, being bribed, bribing a foreign official and, for commercial organisations, failing to prevent bribery.

Individuals found guilty now face a maximum of 10 years in prison, and the punishment for businesses is an unlimited fine.

The Act replaces the UK’s existing, assorted “out of date” legislation and will bring the UK’s rules in line with international anti-corruption regulations.

Companies can now be prosecuted for failing to stop staff or people associated with them from bribing another person on their behalf. But businesses will have a defence if they can prove they have adequate procedures in place to prevent corrupt behaviour.

Ministry ofJustice guidance published in March clarified what companies must do, including the type of procedures they must put in place to prevent bribery and avoid prosecution. The government has suggested a number of principles companies should comply with to establish a suitable defence. These include: making procedures proportionate; top-level commitment; risk assessment; due diligence; communication (including training); and monitoring and reviewing.

In the guidance, justice secretary Ken Clarke described the Act as “directed at making life difficult for the mavericks responsible for corruption, not unduly burdening the vast majority of decent, law-abiding firms.”

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