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Impact of Bribery Act to be considered in UK review

A UK parliamentary committee is to review the impact of the Bribery Act.21 May 2018

The House of Lords has appointed an ad-hoc select committee to "consider and report on" the Act. The 12-strong committee is due to report in 2019. 

The Bribery Act came into force in July 2011 and, broadly speaking, states that companies with a presence in the UK can face prosecution for bribery or failing to prevent bribery regardless of where the alleged activity has taken place. 

Importantly, a company can also be responsible for bribery carried out by its employees or third-party agents without its knowledge or consent. Companies can be found guilty of failing to prevent bribery by people working for or on behalf of the business, unless the company can show that they have "adequate procedures" designed to prevent bribery in place.

Under the Act, the maximum penalty for individuals found guilty of bribery is 10 years' imprisonment and an unlimited fine.

The introduction of the Bribery Act marked the first major change in UK bribery laws for nearly a century.

Chairman of the Lords committee tasked with scrutinising the Act, Lord Saville of Newdigate, said: "Seven years since it came into force, and with the majority of bribery cases being prosecuted under the Bribery Act 2010, now is the opportune time for post-legislative scrutiny. The Committee will examine the effectiveness of the Act, whether there has been stricter prosecution of corrupt conduct, a higher conviction rate, and a reduction in such conduct."

"There is confusion and uncertainty about the Act, amongst SMEs in particular. The inquiry would seek to raise awareness and understanding of the Act. The Committee will be publishing a call for evidence in June, and will welcome submissions from any person, organisation or business with experience of the Bribery Act 2010. We urge any interested parties to contribute to the inquiry. Evidence sessions are expected to begin ahead of summer recess," he said.

In April, two former company directors were imprisoned for offences under the Bribery Act and disqualified from holding director-level positions. At the time, corporate crime expert Olga Tocewicz of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, said that the case served to highlight that no organisation was 'too small' or 'not international enough' to escape scrutiny of compliance with the Bribery Act.