The Bribery Act - Time to Get Serious

After several setbacks and false starts, the Bribery Act will finally come into force on 1st July 2011.

Although business owners will be breathing a sign of relief that reasonable and responsible corporate hospitality will not be criminalised, as sensationalist headlines in the press had previously warned, the Bribery Act still has potentially far-reaching consequences for SME’s. Whilst the recently released guidance for businesses has gone some way to ease the hysteria surrounding the topic, business owners should be warned that now is the time to act.

The Bribery Act will replace the UK’s century old existing laws on bribery and introduces a new strict liability corporate criminal offence of failing to prevent bribery. The Act states that companies will be responsible for all corruption undertaken by staff unless they can show that they had put adequate procedures in place to prevent it.

Business owners should be aware that both organisations and individuals are liable to be prosecuted under the Act, with heavy penalties enforceable if sufficient defence is not mounted. Businesses that trade internationally will also need to review their policies in relation to Act in light of the introduction of the new specific offence – bribing a foreign public official.

Over the past couple of months, we have been assisting a number of our commercial clients with their compliance in relation to the Act.

Paul Schofield
Farleys Solicitors