Section 7 of the Bribery Act 2010 makes it an offence for a company to bribe another with the intent of obtaining or retaining business or to gain an advantage in business.
The first conviction after trial for an offence under this section was that of Skansen Interiors Ltd who were convicted of failing to have adequate provisions in place to prevent bribery.
Two directors received prison sentences for offences under the Bribery Act 2010, and the company faced this offence under section 7.
What did they do?
The allegation was that the company paid a large fee to obtain confidential information to give them an advantage when tendering for an office refurbishment project.
A new CEO launched an internal investigation when he became aware of the arrangement and he implemented a new anti-bribery policy.
Despite that policy being put in place one of the directors still tried to make the final payment on the arrangement. As a result, the company self-reported to the police and National Crime Agency.
What about the directors?
The two directors were charged with offences under sections 1 and 2 of the Bribery Act, one was sentenced to 12 months’ imprisonment, the other to 20 months’ imprisonment, both were disqualified as being directors, for 6 and 7 years respectively.
Was there an alternative to prosecution?
By self-reporting the company could have been offered an agreement to pay a fine so that they would not be prosecuted if they complied (a Deferred Prosecution Agreement).
In this case the company was, by then, dormant so they could not have paid. Although the prosecution was queried by a Judge, the decision to continue with the prosecution was made to send a message to small companies that bribery needs to be taken seriously, and to make sure that procedures and policies were put in place by them.
What was their defence?
The offence under section 7 relates to a company failing to prevent bribery, the company relied on the defence that they had “adequate provision” in place but were convicted after trial.
Is there guidance anywhere for my business?
Guidance is available from the Ministry of Justice regarding the types of bribery prevention procedures that companies should have in place –
How can we help?
If you face an investigation or proceedings involving the Bribery Act or any criminal offence as a company, director or employee please contact our Jared McNally.