The Serious Fraud Office published their Code of Practice in relation to the Deferred Prosecution Agreement (DPA) system in England & Wales on 14 February 2014.

What are Deferred Prosecution Agreements?

DPAs are a method of plea bargaining which will allow companies who commit offences, including corruption, fraud and bribery, to avoid prosecution. They are by no means an easy option and the offending company will have to agree to a number of conditions, which may include a financial penalty, payment of compensation and co-operation with future prosecutions of individuals. If the conditions imposed are not honoured the prosecution of the offending company may resume.

To whom will Deferred Prosecution Agreements apply?

It is anticipated that DPAs will become particularly common in cases involving Bribery Act offences where companies face strict liability for the actions of their agents and others working on their behalf across the globe; however, DPAs may be less common for other financial crime offences where committing the crime requires the direct “mind and will” of the offending company.

The Code of Practice notes that if a company self-reports their offending behaviour it is more likely that a DPA will be offered and that co-operation with the investigation will aid in reducing any potential fine.

The Code of Practice can be found here.

DPAs will be available in England and Wales from 24 February 2014 but there are as yet no plans to bring DPAs to Scotland.