The last few months have seen a rise in successful enforcement of the UK Bribery Act 2010. The most high profile recent Bribery Act 2010 prosecutions have been brought by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) using its powers to investigate and prosecute in this field. The SFO have concentrated on serious cases often involving bribery internationally. We have written previously on recent SFO successful bribery prosecutions here and here and also on other issues including the SFO’s annual report last year here.
The role of the CPS
Perhaps less well-known, is the fact that, in addition to the SFO’s prosecutions, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has also been active. The CPS is the main governmental public prosecuting agency that conducts criminal prosecutions in England and Wales. The CPS also plays a role in the enforcement of the UK Bribery Act 2010 through the criminal courts.
The first prosecutions under the Bribery Act 2010 from the CPS
The CPS in fact brought the very first prosecution under the UK Bribery Act 2010. This was against a Munir Patel, who somewhat ironically was a clerk at a magistrate’s court, and who took a £500 bribe in exchange for not putting details of a traffic summons on a court database – he was caught on film in a tabloid newspaper sting operation. He pleaded guilty to bribery, and, misconduct in office and was sentenced on 11 November 2011 to three years’ imprisonment for bribery and six years’ imprisonment for the misconduct offence. His sentence was reduced in 2012 on appeal to four years.
In what is believed to have been the second case prosecuted under the UK Bribery Act 2010, in a case only reported locally, a Mawia Mushtaq took a driving-test with a local council official in order to become a licensed tax-driver, but, upon being told by the official that he had failed the test offered the official £200 and then £300 to change the test result. He was convicted by a jury and sentenced on 4 December 2012. He was sentenced to two months’ imprisonment, suspended for 12 months, along with a two-month 18:00-06:00 curfew order. Although the local council were instrumental in bringing the prosecution about it is understood that the CPS actually undertook the prosecution.
In 2013, the CPS also prosecuted a Chinese postgraduate student, Li Yang, in a well-publicised case. Mr. Yang attended a UK university but failed to pass his dissertation by a few marks and offered his professor £5,000 in cash, which was refused. As Mr. Yang was putting the cash away a loaded air pistol fell out of his pocket. He pleaded guilty to bribery and possessing an imitation firearm and was sentenced on 23 April 2013 to 12 months’ imprisonment and also ordered to pay £4,800 in prosecution costs.
All three of these cases went to the Crown Court, the higher criminal court in the UK.
What else has the CPS done to enforce Bribery Act 2010?
We thought it would be interesting to know just how many bribery prosecutions have actually been brought by the CPS. We therefore made a request under the UK’s Freedom of Information Act 2000 to the CPS asking the number of prosecutions brought by the CPS before the Magistrate’s Courts and the Crown Courts in England & Wales under the Bribery Act 2010 between its entry into force on 1 July 2011 and the end of February 2015, or whichever was the most recent date for which information was available, for the following four offences: S.1 – Offences of bribing another person; S.2 – Offences relating to being bribed; S.6 – Bribery of foreign public officials; and, S.7 – Failure of commercial organisations to prevent bribery.
The CPS’s response was that they have instituted criminal proceedings before the courts in sixteen cases under the Bribery Act 2010 during the period 1 July 2011 to the end of February 2015. Their records indicate that thirteen prosecutions were brought under s.1 of the Act and two were brought under s.2 of the Act. Apparently the file on another case was not located and might have been destroyed in accordance with standard CPS retention and destruction policy, and as a result the CPS do not know under which section of the Act the prosecution was brought. The CPS did not indicate either whether these cases went to the Crown Court level.
The fact that no s.6 proceedings have been brought indicates that the CPS’ focus is most likely to be just on domestic bribery. It is also interesting that no s.7 proceedings have been brought as this is also understood be the case with the SFO, at least so far and with regard to knowledge that is currently available in the public domain.
Whilst the number of CPS prosecutions brought so far may seem to be modest, this is no real surprise given the length of time anything but the simplest bribery case will take to reach trial. It is clear that although the CPS’ bribery enforcement activities are not receiving as much attention as those of the SFO, the CPS are active. The figures demonstrate that the prosecution of domestic bribery is not a dead letter. In addition, the possibility of enforcement means that every business large or small will need to take its anti-bribery compliance responsibilities seriously.
You can find out more about the work Cordery has been doing in bribery and corruption here where you will also find short films in English and French summarising relevant issues.
Andre Bywater and Jonathan Armstrong are lawyers with Cordery in London where their focus is on compliance issues.
Andre Bywater, Cordery, Lexis House, 30 Farringdon Street, London, EC4A 4HH
Office: +44 (0)207 075 1785
Jonathan Armstrong, Cordery, Lexis House, 30 Farringdon Street, London, EC4A 4HH
Office: +44 (0)207 075 1784