Following on from our original blog on the Bribery Bill there have been some changes to the Bill during its speedy passage through Parliament. We have no doubt that this Bill will be enacted before the General Election. Agents, investors and developers do need to be aware of the new law and will be required to review internal procedures and contracts with those supplying services to them to ensure they minimise any risks of a criminal sanction.
In relation to the offence that a company can commit by failing to prevent bribery (reported on in our original blog) setting up suitable internal procedures and training, and auditing these, remains the crucial element to having a defence. The latest draft of the Bill specifies that guidance on these adequate procedures will now be statutory. We expect the guidance to be published in the summer. We will be updating you on this in due course as more information becomes available as to the expected content of the guidance. Remember, this can affect agreements with people who provide services to you as well as your own organisation. As mentioned previously, there will, however, be time to comply before the law is in force. It is now believed that the strict liability offence for corporates will come into force in the autumn of this year although the rest of the legislation is expected be in force force early in the summer.
Directors of companies will be interested to know that there is individual criminal liability under the Bill. Where the offence of giving or receiving a bribe is committed by a company, the Bill includes an offence where a senior officer consents or connives with that act of bribery. This is a separate, individual, offence. A senior officer means a director, manager, company secretary, or other similar officer. The offence covers those who have a close connection with the UK. This includes British citizens and anyone resident in the UK. Any senior officer who is a British citizen is therefore caught, even if the act is committed abroad and they do not reside in the UK!
You may be wondering how this should change the way property people do business here and abroad. Our “finger in the air” test when offering hospitality or other facilities to people with whom you’re doing business is to ask yourself “will what I’m doing make this person feel beholden to me?” If the answer is yes, you need to stop and think about the activity some more, to decide if it gives you an improper advantage.