A Magistrates Court clerk is the first person to be prosecuted under the new Bribery Act 2010, less than three months after it was brought into force.

The charge relates to an allegation that Mr. Munir Yakub Patel promised an offender who had been summonsed for an alleged motoring offence, that he could influence the course of the criminal proceedings in return for £500.

In addition to being charged for the offences of misconduct in public office and perverting the course of justice (which relate to other alleged acts of misconduct during his employment), Mr. Patel has been charged with an offence contrary to section two of the Bribery Act for requesting and receiving a bribe intending to improperly perform his function.

This case demonstrates the willingness of the relevant authorities to bring proceedings under the Act. This prosecution may not be the most high profile of cases, but the enforcing authorities have to start somewhere. It also demonstrates that prosecutions won't just be reserved for those large scale acts of endemic, institutional or overseas bribery and corruption involving millions of pounds.

It could have also been more interesting if Mr. Patel's employer had been prosecuted for failing to prevent bribery, given that most of the concern for business and industry has been in relation to that particular offence and the defence of 'adequate procedures'. Perhaps if his employer hadn't have been the Ministry of Justice, we may have seen the first corporate prosecution. As matters stand, we await the first test of the adequate procedures defence.

With the penalty for a conviction under the Act including unlimited fines and up to 10 years in prison, organisations need to have adequate procedures in place to address their bribery and corruption risks. If you haven't already addressed your Bribery Act compliance, this case could serve as a timely reminder that the regulatory authorities will pursue those people who do not comply with the Act.

We have been working with many client organisations, operating across different market sectors and also jurisdictions, to help them achieve compliance with the Bribery Act.  The work involved isn't necessarily onerous.  We have provided everything from basic advice and support to those organisations who are happy to undertake the majority of the work themselves, right through to undertaking risk assessments, writing policies, designing training programmes and conducting awareness sessions for those organisations who are looking for someone to provide a full solution to this compliance issue.  Alternatively you may have completed some work yourself and simply be looking to audit or stress test your existing procedures against corporate standards.

If you haven't already considered your Bribery Act compliance risk and would like to talk to us about how we can help you comply, please get in touch to discuss matters on a confidential and no commitment basis.