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Penalties

Individuals

What penalties are available to the courts for violations of corruption laws by individuals?

Individuals guilty of an offence under Sections 1, 2 or 6 of the Bribery Act 2010 are liable to a maximum of 10 years’ imprisonment, an unlimited fine or both (Section 11 of the Bribery Act).

The Sentencing Council Guidelines state that in order for the court to determine the appropriate sentence, it should assess both culpability and harm. The level of culpability is determined by weighing up all factors to determine “the offender’s role and the extent to which the offending was planned and the sophistication with which it was carried out”. Harm is assessed in relation to “any impact caused by the offending (whether to identifiable victims or in a wider context) and the actual or intended gain to the offender”. Other available penalties include confiscation and compensation orders.

Under the pre-Bribery Act statutory offences, the maximum penalty is seven years’ imprisonment, an unlimited fine or both.

For the common law bribery offence, the term of imprisonment is at the discretion of the court (although in practice the court is likely to be guided by the maximum sentences under the Bribery Act) and may be accompanied by an unlimited fine.

Companies or organisations

What penalties are available to the courts for violations of corruption laws by companies or organisations?

Companies guilty of an offence under Sections 1, 2, 6 or 7 of the Bribery Act are liable to an unlimited fine (Sections 11(2) and (3) of the Bribery Act). The Sentencing Guidelines divide the sentencing process into a series of steps. The appropriate level of fine is determined by:

  • assessing the gross profit from the contract obtained, retained or sought as a result of the bribery offence (ie, the ‘harm’); and
  • multiplying this figure by reference to a culpability category.

The multiplier is higher depending on the level of culpability.

Up to 50% discount on a penalty is available by way of a deferred prosecution agreement, with up to one-third discount available by way of an early guilty plea during prosecution.

The court may also make a confiscation order if it is asked to do so by the prosecutor or if it believes that it is appropriate to do so.

A company convicted of a criminal offence under Sections 1, 2 or 6 of the Bribery Act will face mandatory debarment from public contracts across the European Union. If a company is convicted for a Section 7 offence, debarment is discretionary and not mandatory.

Under the pre-Bribery Act offences, a company may also be subject to an unlimited fine.

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