Following a momentous week in Irish politics, the Criminal Justice (Corruption Offences) Bill 2017 (the "Bill") was passed on 30 May 2018 by the Seanad (the Irish Senate), concluding its passage through the Oireachtas (the Irish Houses of Parliament). The Bill now goes to the President for consideration and signing into law within seven days.
The Bill was one of a number of measures introduced by the Government as part of its stated intention of tackling white collar crime and implementing recommendations made by the Mahon Tribunal in its report into planning matters and payments to politicians.
The Bill is intended to modernise and radically consolidate the law on corruption and bribery in this jurisdiction, repealing and replacing the existing piecemeal legislation in the area, part of which dates back over two centuries. In addition, the Bill is intended to assist Ireland meet its commitments under various international and anti-corruption instruments and incorporates a number of recommendations put forward by international bodies including, the OECD, the EU, the Council of Europe and the United Nations.
First published by the Government in autumn 2017 (following on from an earlier Heads of Bill published in 2012), the Bill has been subject to a number of amendments and revisions during the course of its passage through the Oireachtas.
Key aspects of the Bill (as now passed by the Oireachtas) are as follows:
- New offences of active and passive trading in influence;
- New offence of an Irish Official carrying out a corrupt act in relation to his or her office;
- New offence of giving a gift, consideration or advantage knowing that it will be used to commit a corrupt offence;
- New offences of creating or using false documents;
- New offence of intimidation where a threat of harm is used instead of a bribe;
- The extension of the 'presumption of corrupt gift' to include connected persons;
- The expansion of 'presumption of corrupt donation' to include failure to disclose or return a donation as a ground for the application of the presumption;
- New provisions for the forfeiture of public office and prohibition on seeking public office for up to ten years for a person guilty of an offence;
- Provisions for seizure and forfeiture of bribes;
- New strict liability offence for corporate entities where any individual connected with that entity has been found guilty of an offence. The penalty for this offence can be an unlimited fine; and
- Introduction of a new requirement for corporate entities to take reasonable measures to ensure that employees and other persons do not engage in bribery and corruption.
While no official indication has been given as to the likely commencement date for the legislation, the Government has previously indicated its intention to have the Bill enacted by June 2018 when Ireland faces a number of evaluations from a variety of international entities on preventing and tackling corruption.
As advised in our previous briefings, the wide ranging nature of the proposed provisions should trigger organisations to put in place anti-corruption policies or to review policies already in place. Such policies would almost certainly form the cornerstone of any defence to proceedings brought under this legislation. Given the proposed extension of liability to company directors and management, professional advice should be sought and an overview of all relevant policies and procedures conducted has a priority.