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‘It’s not just big corporates that need to be aware of the Bribery Act’ say High Wycombe law firm

| March 29, 2018

Robert Hill

A High Wycombe law firm has warned that ‘it’s not just big corporates that need to be aware of the Bribery Act‘.

The warning comes after the Act came to public attention in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica allegations.

Political consulting firm, Cambridge Analytica recently responded to allegations against its staff with a statement highlighting how it conforms to the guidance of the UK’s Bribery Act.

Now, High Wycombe-based Reynolds Parry Jones LLP has warned small businesses that they too need to be conscious of their obligations under the act.

The Bribery Act came into force in 2011, with the aim of simplifying and consolidating existing law on corruption and creating a new crime of failing to prevent bribery.

Robert Hill, a Partner at Reynolds Parry Jones LLP, said: ‘In simple terms, bribery is defined as giving or offering a person a financial or other advantage with the intention of inducing them to act improperly. It is also a crime to ask for or to receive an inducement in return for acting improperly.

Having the right processes in place to conform to the tough standards required by the Act is not just the concern of big businesses.

In R v Skansen Interiors Limited, a contracting company employing 30 people was charged with failing to prevent bribery under Section 7 of the Act, resulting in the first trial of this offence since the Act come into force in the summer of 2011. The action was taken despite the company self-reporting the illegal conduct of its former managing director in making bribes to win contracts.

The company had anti-bribery and anti-corruption policies in place, and had identified and stopped the largest bribe payment before it was paid, but the measures were found to be insufficient to meet the defence under the act.

Robert Hill added: ‘The outcome of this case illustrates the difficulties that smaller companies may face in trying to act responsibly and keep within the law.

It appears Skansen thought they had matters well covered, and by taking action to self-report may have imagined that their actions would have been considered exemplary, rather than falling short.

What is interesting is that by the time the case was heard, the company had become dormant, so no financial penalty could be imposed and the only sentence could be an absolute discharge.

When the judge asked why the prosecution had been brought in such circumstances, the Crown Prosecution Service said that it was in the public interest and they wanted to send a message to others.

The message is loud and clear – it’s not just big corporates that need to be aware of the Bribery Act. You must have processes and policies that meet the best practice conditions, whatever the size of your business, and be able to demonstrate how it is embedded within the culture of the company.

That will be demonstrated through regular risk assessments, ensuring staff are kept up to date on procedures, undertaking due diligence on clients and agents, and making sure written documentation hits the right standard and matches up to the requirements of the Act,‘ said Robert Hill.

Further information on Reynolds Parry Jones LLP can be found on their website at http://www.rpj.uk.com/.

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