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The offence of bribery alludes to either the offering of financial or any other such advantage to a person in order that they may perform an improper act, or instead later rewarding them for such behaviour. In essence it is giving inducement for someone to commit such an act. Whilst bribery is not a new offence there has in fact been recent reform to this area of law. The existing legislation relating to bribery has not changed as such but simply been extended. The Bribery Act 2010 involves the introduction of four new offences: bribing another person; being bribed; bribing a foreign public official; and the corporate offence of failing to prevent bribery. It carries a maximum penalty of ten years imprisonment.
The Bribery Act 2010 was enacted on 8th April 2010, although owing to the necessary procedures and a need to establish the act and its interpretation, it will not be implemented until 1st July 2011. It had been hoped that it would come into force in April 2011 but was delayed after Kenneth Clarke ordered a review of the legislation following pressure from business owners. This reform serves to modernise the laws in respect of bribery and is in keeping with the government’s desire to ensure that the UK’s legislation remains current and is line with that of other European countries.
The reform essentially involves the extension of vicarious liability within companies meaning that owners of businesses, as well as individual employees, should be responsible for any bribery which may occur within their company. Bribery within the workplace can be a complex issue as it can be difficult to establish the distinction between bribing a party and simply offering them what is known as corporate hospitality. Business owners may not simply plead ignorance in cases of bribery being performed by their employees and it is thus imperative that they are informed of the gravity of the offence and the necessary policies which they must have in place with regards to it.
It is important that owners attend the available seminars which raise the awareness of such legislative reform and the ramifications which may arise from it, encouraging them to establish a relevant zero tolerance policy with regards bribery within the workplace.
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