A man who tried to bribe a council licensing officer has been convicted of an offence under the Bribery Act 2010 (the “Act”). This is the second prosecution under the Act, but once again relates to individual bribery of a public official and so has not required the courts to consider the more controversial elements of the legislation.
On 5 October 2011, a licensing officer from Oldham Council accompanied Mawia Mushtaq on a driving test for a private hire taxi licence. When Mr Mushtaq was told that he had failed the test, having failed multiple times previously, he offered £200 or £300 to the licensing officer to change the result. The licensing officer refused and reported the incident to his manager at Oldham Council, who passed the information to the Greater Manchester Police.
A prosecution followed and Mr Mushtaq was convicted of bribery under section 1 of the Act on 4 December 2012, after a trial lasting less than two days. The defendant was sentenced by His Honour Judge Foster QC to two months’ imprisonment, suspended for 12 months. The judge also imposed a two-month curfew order between 6pm and 6am.
This follows the first conviction under the Act of Munir Patel, a court clerk found guilty of taking bribes to alter a traffic offence database. Mr Patel was sentenced to six years' imprisonment (later reduced to four on appeal) in November 2011.
While the difference between the sentences imposed in the two cases appears stark, the circumstances involved were rather different. In the earlier Patel case, while he was convicted of one offence of accepting bribes, there was evidence that he had been involved in more than 50 similar incidents. Mr Patel was convicted not only for bribery, but also for misconduct in a public office and the judge indicated that Mr Patel’s conduct was to be treated as particularly serious given his role as a court officer. In sentencing Mr Patel, the judge noted that his conduct represented a very substantial breach of trust and so warranted a very severe penalty. In the Mushtaq case, on the other hand, Mr Mushtaq was not a court officer, nor even a public official, there was no evidence of similar conduct in the past and, perhaps of some relevance, the offer of a bribe (which was for a relatively small amount) was not carried through.
Although of interest, neither case has assisted in providing guidance on the meaning of the more complex provisions in the Act (including as to the weight the courts may give to the Ministry of Justice’s guidance on “adequate procedures”), which is only likely to come when a corporate is prosecuted in connection with bribery under the extraterritorial jurisdiction provided by the legislation.