Prosecutions under the Bribery Act
So far there have only been three prosecutions under the Bribery Act, both against individuals.
The first prosecution was against Munir Patel, a court clerk at Redbridge Magistrates Court, who was filmed accepting a cash payment in return for omitting to put an offender’s traffic summons on a court database. Mr Patel was charged under section 2 of the Act (i.e. requesting, agreeing to receive or accepting a bribe), in addition to the offence of misconduct in public office. He was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment under the Act and six years’ for misconduct in public office, the sentences to be served concurrently. On appeal, his sentence was reduced to four years’ imprisonment. See our Law-Now article.
The second prosecution was against Mawia Mustaq, who was charged under section 1 of the Act (i.e. offering, promising or giving a bribe), for offering money to a licensing officer from Oldham Council in return for a private hire taxi licence. Mr Mustaq was sentenced to two months' imprisonment, suspended for two years and given a two month curfew. See our Law-Now article
The third prosecution was against a Chinese student, Yang Li, who offered his university tutor a £5,000 bribe to change the grade of his masters degree to a pass. When the tutor rejected Mr Li’s offer, he took the money off the table and an imitation firearm (an air pistol) fell out of his pocket. Mr Li pleaded guilty to bribery and possession of an imitation firearm and was sentenced to twelve months imprisonment and ordered to pay costs. See our Law-Now article.
Although of interest, none of these cases have assisted in providing guidance on the meaning of the more complex provisions within the Act (including the weight the courts may give to the Ministry of Justice’s guidance on “adequate procedures”, as a defence to the section 7 corporate offence, and the territorial scope of that corporate offence), which is only likely to come when a corporate is prosecuted in connection with bribery under the extraterritorial jurisdiction provided by the legislation.
While the SFO has yet to bring a corporate prosecution, it has brought charges against individuals under the Bribery Act and David Green QC (director of the SFO) has indicated that the SFO is currently investigating eight Bribery Act projects and, while he acknowledges that there are some people who are “impatient for the first prosecution under the Bribery Act”, he confirmed that the SFO will “bring the right cases at the time that is right” for it.
Increased prosecutions under the old anti-bribery laws
As noted above, the Bribery Act does not have retrospective effect and the SFO has reported that, on average, it takes 19 months for it to investigate allegations and bring a case to charge. It is therefore unsurprising that there have been only three completed prosecutions under the Act so far, none of which were brought by the SFO. However, since the initial proposals for legislative reform were published in 2008, we have seen a significant increase in prosecutions for bribery under the previous anti-bribery regime, with more than 20 bribery-related cases passing through the courts. In the years prior to this, there were very few individual prosecutions and no corporate prosecutions at all.