The ‘failure to prevent’ offence created by the Bribery Act 2010 is likely to be extended to other forms of economic crime by any review of the act, lawyers predicted after peers described the act as an ‘exemplary piece of legislation’.
However, in a post-legislative scrutiny report published last week, the House of Lords Bribery Act 2010 Committee recommended that ways should be found to speed up prosecutions under the act. It said the power to initiate prosecutions should not solely rest with heads of the Serious Fraud Office and Crown Prosecution Service.
Louise Hodges, head of criminal litigation at criminal firm Kingsley Napley, said increased use of technology is likely to be part of the plans to speed up investigations but that a change in corporate criminal liability will ‘inevitably be identified’ as another method.
Ann-Marie Ottaway, a solicitor at international firm Greenberg Traurig and specialist adviser to the committee, said: ‘While they didn’t make a recommendation the committee were clearly in favour of an extension [of the failure to prevent offence].’ She added that speeding up investigations is already on [SFO director] Lisa Osofsky’s ‘to do list’ and that requiring the SFO and CPS to publish plans should ensure ‘momentum is not lost’.
Jonathan Pickworth, partner at international firm White & Case, said an extension is not necessarily a good thing, but the tide of opinion is such that the introduction of this new offence is almost inevitable.
‘Everyone seems to have forgotten that the “failure to prevent bribery” offence was introduced because bribery was seen as a unique crime in the sense that the company benefited from the bribe,’ he said. ‘Now the opposite argument is being run – namely that if we have the offence for bribery, why not for other crimes too?’
The report follows nine months of evidence-gathering in which the committee interviewed lawyers, MPs and prosecuting agency officials.