A Redbridge Magistrates' court clerk has become the first person to be convicted under the Bribery Act after abusing his position in exchange for bribes. Munir Yakub Patel accepted £500 to prevent details of a traffic summons for speeding being entered on the court database. Details of the incident were first uncovered in August and thereafter prosecution was commenced under section 2 of the Act, which prohibits an individual from requesting and accepting a bribe in order to improperly perform their functions (see our previous e-update, The Bribery Act: The Prosecutions Begin!).
Patel admitted one count of bribery and another of misconduct in a public office at the hearing of the case at Southwark crown court. The arrangement of the bribe with Jayrai Singh was caught on film by a national newspaper. Patel denied a further seven counts of possession of an article for use in fraud; however the court ordered that these charges were to lie. The misconduct charge related to Patel providing advice to individuals on how to avert being called to court for various analogous offences.
The maximum sentence Patel could face under the Bribery Act is 10 years in prison and Judge John Price warned the clerk that there is a possibility of immediate custody. Patel is currently out on bail until his sentencing on 11 November.
Gaon Hart from the Crown Prosecution Service commented on the importance of the principles of integrity, honesty, objectivity and impartiality being honoured by civil servants. Patel was described by his barrister Janice Johnson as a man of previous good character. Unfortunately on this occasion the administrative clerk failed to uphold those values, instead undermining "the very laws which he was employed to uphold."
Mr Hart also stated that "this prosecution is the first of its kind under the Bribery Act 2010, which has provided a significant weapon in the armoury of prosecutors that enables us to focus on the bribery element rather than general misconduct behaviour."
It is clear that those who exploit their position and accept bribes for personal advantage will continue to face prosecution at the hands of the director of public prosecutions or the director of the Serious Fraud Office. This conviction confirms that those who underestimate the severity of accepting bribes will be subject to the full force of the law.