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Prosecutors report first Bribery Act conviction

A court clerk has become the first person to be convicted under new UK bribery laws, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has said.17 Oct 2011

Munir Patel, a former magistrates' court administrative officer, admitted accepting a £500 bribe to "get rid of a speeding charge" and pled guilty to an offence under section two of the Bribery Act, the CPS said.

Under section two of the Act it is an offence if a person requests, agrees to receive, or accepts an advantage, financial or otherwise, with the intention that they or someone else perform a "relevant function or activity" improperly. Under the Act, the maximum penalty for individuals found guilty of bribery is 10 years' imprisonment and an unlimited fine. The Act came into force on 1 July.

Gaon Hart, senior Crown Advocate for the CPS Special Crime and Counter Terrorism Division, said that Patel had brought the criminal justice system into "disrepute".

"Public corruption is an extremely serious offence that undermines public faith in the integrity of those who work in the criminal justice system," Hart said in a statement.

"The prosecution case is that Patel abused his position as a court administrative officer at Redbridge Magistrates' Court in East London, to solicit a bribe from a member of the public," he said.

"Public servants are required to act with integrity, honesty, objectivity and impartiality but Patel's actions could not have been further from each of these. His conduct has brought into disrepute the criminal justice system as he sought to undermine the very laws which he was employed to uphold. The public rightly expects criminal cases to be dealt with fairly and professionally, and the police, courts and CPS have all worked together to deal with this case swiftly and robustly," Hart said.

Patel also pled guilty to "misconduct in public office for other similar offences" and "seven charges of possessing false garage receipts for use in fraud have been ordered to lie on file," the CPS said.

Patel will be sentenced on 11 November, the CPS said.

The Bribery Act has provided prosecutors with a "significant weapon" that has enabled them to "focus on the bribery element rather than general misconduct behaviour" in cases, Hart said. "We will continue to target those who act corruptly purely for personal gain and tailor the charge to reflect their wrong-doing," he said.

Under the Act, a company can be found responsible for bribery carried out by its employees without its knowledge or consent. It creates a new offence of failure to prevent bribery by people working for or on behalf of a business, but companies can escape liability if they show that they have 'adequate procedures' designed to prevent bribery in place.

In addition to creating new obligations for companies to have anti-corruption policies in place, the Act also creates the offence of bribing a foreign public official, even if that person has demanded a bribe.

UK companies and partnerships could be breaking the law no matter where the alleged acts of bribery take place. Foreign companies which operate in the UK could also face prosecution regardless of where the alleged bribery has taken place, unless the suspect activities are permitted locally.

A company could also be liable for the actions of associated people, which the Act lists as including recruitment firms, commercial agents, partners, consultants and subcontractors.