By Grant Esterhuizen, Partner in the Corporate team, Lester Aldridge

On 18 November 2011, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) secured its first conviction under the Bribery Act 2010 which came into force on 1 July 2011.

While such prosecution demonstrates that the Court is prepared to vigorously enforce the provisions of the Act, it should be noted that it is not only individuals who need to consider their exposure to prosecution under its provisions.

Companies are widely exposed to prosecution under the Act as they can now also be found responsible for any acts of bribery instigated or accepted by their employees, agents, subsidiaries, distributors or any other person who performs services for or on their behalf, both in the UK and abroad.

Munir Patel, a clerk at Redbridge Magistrates Court was given a 3 year sentence for accepting bribes from approximately 53 road traffic offenders, who paid him in order to avoid their fines, penalty points and driving disqualifications. Over the course of a year the CPS believes Mr Patel was paid around £20,000 in such bribes and his actions were exposed by an undercover journalist from The Sun newspaper, who filmed Mr Patel receiving a £500 bribe in return for omitting to put a traffic summons onto a Court database.

The prosecution of an individual should draw the attention of companies large and small, which are now widely exposed to prosecution under the Act. Now that the Court has illustrated that it is prepared to vigorously enforce the provisions of the Act against an individual, companies should note that the only defence available to them is to show that they have adequate procedures in place designed to prevent acts of bribery occurring.

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