The Bribery Act came into force on July 1st 2011 following a delay during which the Ministry of Justice published guidance to assist commercial organisations in preventing bribery.

The commercial offence contained in section 7 of the Bribery Act represents a major shift from the old law and places obligations on corporate organisations to ensure that they deploy robust anti-corruption procedures. This is a strict liability offence, so no corrupt intent will be required on the part of the organisation.

If adequate anti-corruption procedures are established, they will form a defence under s7 (2) and the company could escape liability for any corrupt activities carried out by its employees or agents.

What constitutes adequate procedures will obviously vary for each business. The guidance identifies six core principles that businesses should consider when assessing what bribery risk they face and therefore what, if anything, they need to do to mitigate that risk. These are proportionality, top level commitment, risk assessment, due diligence, communication and monitoring and review.

The Government acknowledges that ‘Many organisations will face little or no risk of bribery, especially if their business is undertaken primarily in the UK’. The risk is likely to increase with the size and complexity of a business and if it operates internationally. All companies should take the time to assess any risk they may face and ensure they adopt anti-corruption procedures which are proportionate to that risk if they wish to rely on the defence.

Genuine hospitality and similar business expenditure is unlikely to engage the Act as long as it is proportionate and reasonable to the line of business your company operates in.

For further information and assistance on your company’s compliance with the Bribery Act, or if you face any charges under the new legislation, please get in contact with me or another of the fraud and business crime solicitors at Farleys.