Bribery & Corruption Lawyers

The UK has one of the world’s most comprehensive and exacting legal regimes to combat bribery and corruption.. This is supported by a suite of regulatory bodies and agencies that work together to enforce these rules and will pursue sanctions against parties suspected of infringing these rules.  The challenge for many individuals and businesses operating in the UK is that much of the legislation in this sphere is convoluted and difficult to understand in a commercial context.

At Bright Line Law, we have a well-regarded practice of defending individuals and businesses that are alleged to have violated anti-corruption laws. The unique approach that we take, in being one of the few barrister-led law firms in the UK, to assisting clients to defend against allegations of corruption affords us a particular advantage in dealing with regulatory investigations and court litigation on our clients’ behalf.

Bribery & Corruption Law Firm in the UK

The UK does not operate a regime whereby a single statute targets/ defines ‘corrupt practices’. This was a deliberate decision given that corruption it itself inherently difficult to define and will often only be identifiable by certain patterns of behaviour. That being said, arguably one of the most commonly prosecuted behaviours associated with corruption is that of bribery.

The commission of bribery is arguably one of the most well-known and accepted forms of corrupt behaviour. The UK has enacted specific legislation to guard against, and sanction instances of bribery in the Bribery Act 2010 (“the 2010 Act”). As was mentioned above, corruption is difficult to define. This is also true of bribery which is why the 2010 Act sets out a range of different offences:

  • Offering, promising or giving a bribe to another person;

  • Requesting, agreeing to receive or accepting a bribe from another person; and

  • Bribing a foreign public official.

A technical but crucial point to note about bribery law is that there is no requirement stipulating that the bribe be accepted or that the acts for which the bribe was paid be performed. It is often enough for a bribe to be offered for the crime to have been committed.  . It is also important to highlight that both individuals and businesses can be charged for having committed one of the above offences. This is one of the reasons why the 2010 Act is so complex – the breadth of parties that are capable of sanction under the legislation is incredibly wide.

Furthermore, the 2010 Act also creates an offence for businesses for ‘failing to prevent bribery’: a business will be criminally liable if someone working on its behalf (an “associated person”) bribes someone else with a view to achieving an advantage for the business. This envisages situations whereby an individual grants gifts or other ‘favours’ with a view to securing a contract or making disproportionate payments in a commercial context.

Another important aspect of the 2010 Act is the length of its reach and applicability. This is particularly relevant for businesses operating across national boundaries. An entity that commits acts that would be deemed as bribery in the UK (regardless of its treatment in another jurisdiction) will be vulnerable to a charge for bribery. This is yet another reason why the anti-bribery legislation is deemed a particularly sophisticated piece of legislation, and why businesses should seek the guidance of experienced legal counsel when facing allegations of having been involved in bribery.

Sanctions for Bribery

The Serious Fraud Office (“SFO”) is the primary organisation charged with policing, investigating and pursuing sanctioning instances of bribery. The SFO is a powerful regulatory agency that is staffed by technical experts who, in partnership with other authorities, can bring significant resources to bear on suspected instances of bribery.

The penalty for the commission of an offence under the 2010 Act is not insignificant. In the case of individuals that are found to have committed bribery, there is a maximum penalty of 10 years’ imprisonment. The situation is different for businesses that fail to prevent bribery: evidence of breach can result in an unlimited fine.

There are relatively few bases for a defence to bribery. That being said, businesses do have a defence available to them in the form of the defence of ‘adequate procedures’. This relates to their positive obligation to prevent themselves from becoming involved in bribery. Notwithstanding bribery having been committed, it will be possible for a business to avoid sanction if it can show that it had the necessary procedures and practices in place to prevent itself (via its associated persons etc.) from becoming involved in bribery.  Alternatively, businesses could attempt to make use of a Deferred Prosecution Agreement (“DPA”) to avoid sanction. However, this route is often only available following its being presented by prosecutors – it is not available as a matter of right.

A law firm with expertise in defending allegations of bribery

If you or your business is facing an investigation for having committed bribery, you need to speak with a legal advisor who understands your circumstances and will be able to approach matters objectively. The penalty for having committed bribery is severe and could have significant consequences for you and your business in the future, which is why you should only trust your defence to a recognised leader in the field of anti-bribery law.

Contact Bright Line Law’s Bribery & Corruption Lawyers in London

Bright Line Law is a leading provider of legal advice and representation, with a team of lawyers specialising in this area. Contact a member of our team, call us on 020 3871 3204 or fill in our online enquiry form

Jonathan Fisher QC
Lead Counsel

Telephone + 020 3872 2852

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