The Minister for Justice’s plans to tackle corruption and white-collar crime are continuing, with a range of new measures being rolled out.
The draft scheme of the Criminal Justice (Prevention of Corruption) Bill 2012, published on 20 June 2012, proposes to repeal the current, varied sources of anti-corruption legislation in Ireland and replace it with one consolidated piece of legislation. Many of the existing provisions remain in the draft scheme but have been clarified and strengthened.
The draft scheme also incorporates a number of recommendations from the recently published Mahon Tribunal report which inquired into certain planning matters and payments to politicians. We have provided a comprehensive review of the draft scheme in a separate update, which can be accessed here.
The Government also published the draft heads of the Protected Disclosure in the Public Interest Bill 2012 on 27 February 2012, which addresses whistle-blowing policies in the workplace. The provisions are expressly modelled on the UK Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998, incorporating elements of the New Zealand Protected Disclosure Act 2000.
The new draft provisions, which are being supported by the Director of Public Prosecutions, aim to create a legal framework which allows public and private sector workers to make reports against their employers in good faith. This will result in a need for companies to examine their existing whistle-blowing policies once a firmer indication of the proposed law is available.
At a wider level, the introduction of the new white-collar crime and whistle-blowing measures are designed to align Ireland’s anti-corruption mechanisms with international best practice. This follows the stated objective contained within the Programme for Government, which outlined that those engaged in white-collar crime would be “properly pursued for their crimes and that the full rigours of the law will apply to them.”
In a separate development, the Government recently enacted the Competition (Amendment) Act 2012, which is intended to strengthen the enforcement of competition law and “battle white-collar crime.” The Act introduces substantially increased maximum penalties, and extends the scope of the disqualification provisions under the Companies Acts to encompass competition offences.
Meanwhile, the Garda Síochána (Irish police force) have also committed to working closely with the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement to address white-collar crime, with this outlined as a priority for 2012 (see next article).
It is clear that the pace of change in relation to white collar crime legislation is, if anything, quickening. Moreover, the publication of the Mahon Report has plainly strengthened the resolve of legislators to, in the words of one TD, “focus on what we can learn from this sorry account of a bygone era and how we, as legislators, can ensure such things never happen again.”