Employers have been waiting to see whether the application of the provisions of the Bribery Act 2010 will impact upon the way in which they conduct business, most particularly in respect of corporate hospitality and overseas transactions where it is often considered essential to ‘smooth the way’ in order to do business. The Act has a broad jurisdictional reach as it covers acts which take place outside the UK if the individual or company have a close connection with the UK.
It may then perhaps come as a small relief that the first prosecution under the Act is in connection with conduct that most of us would consider to be inappropriate, even immoral. Mr Munir Patel, a former magistrates’ court clerk, was filmed accepting a £500 ‘bung’ to ensure details of a traffic offence were not entered onto the court’s database. Mr Patel was prosecuted under section 2(1) of the Act which provides that there will be an offence if a person requests, agrees to receive, or accept a financial or other advantage intending that a relevant function or activity should be performed improperly. Mr Patel pleaded guilty and on 18 November he was sentenced to three years under the Bribery Act and six years for misconduct in public office. The sentences will run concurrently so the overall term is six years.
It therefore remains difficult to predict the line that the CPS will adopt with regard to less obviously heinous breaches of the Act, particularly those carried out in the more regular course of business, such as lavish client entertainment. However, it has set out what the public can expect from the CPS in the Core Quality Standards document published in March 2010.