The coming into force of the Bribery Act will lead to a number of changes related to bribery and corruption both in the UK and abroad. Non-compliance with the legislation may result in a maximum prison sentence of 10 years, an unlimited fine and/ or extradition to prosecute offences committed abroad.

The Bribery Act will reform the criminal law of bribery to provide for a new consolidated scheme of bribery offences to cover bribery and corruption both in the United Kingdom and abroad. The Bribery Act is expected to come into legal force in April 2011.

What will change?

1. The Act will introduce two offences applicable to both companies and individuals:

a. Offering, promising or giving of an advantage.

b. Requesting, agreeing to receive or accepting of an advantage.  

2. Introduction of a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment and/ or unlimited fine for certain offences.  

3. Introduction of extra-territorial jurisdiction to prosecute offences committed abroad by UK residents, UK nationals and UK corporations.

How can I avoid/ limit liability?

1. Conviction can be avoided by putting in place adequate risk management procedures to prevent bribery. It is important to understand the need for a genuine and proactive procedure. Having a written policy alone may not be sufficient to avoid liability!  

2. Appreciate the international ambit of the legislation and consider more stringent measures if you are dealing in a country where the risk of committing an offence is particularly high or if you operate in a high risk-arena, for example, such as construction, energy, pharmaceuticals and financial services.  

3. Provide adequate training to staff. Under the new legislation the company might be held liable for acts of bribery committed by an employee.  

4. Ensure the monitoring of corporate activities and payments. It is common knowledge that corporate hospitality and promotional expenditure are considered as common business practice in some countries. However, such practice may well constitute an offence under the Bribery Act.

5. If you discover your organisation may have acted corruptly, consider cooperation and voluntary disclosure of the alleged misconduct with you legal advisor.