Significant new UK anti-bribery legislation, the Bribery Act, received Royal Assent in April 2010, and is likely to come into force later this year. The Act reforms UK criminal anti-bribery law and covers bribery both within and outside the UK. As well as containing general offences concerning paying and receiving bribes, the Act makes it a specific offence to bribe foreign public officials. However, perhaps the most notable aspect of the new Act is that the failure of commercial organisations to prevent bribery is also an offence. This strict liability offence extends to non-UK organisations which carry on business in the UK.
Background to the new legislation
Previous UK anti-corruption law was based on common law and on statutes dating from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It was generally viewed as in need of reform.
There was widespread disquiet about the weaknesses in the UK's anti-bribery regime following the UK government’s controversial decision in 2006 to stop, in the interests of national security, the Serious Fraud Office's investigation into alleged bribery in connection with BAE’s Al-Yamamah arms deal with Saudi Arabia.
The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) adopted its anti-bribery convention in 1997. In 2008, the OECD Working Group on Bribery stated that it believed that the UK’s laws on foreign bribery were insufficient and created an obstacle to successful prosecutions. It recommended that the UK enact anti-foreign bribery legislation as soon as possible.
With this background, in 2008 the Law Commission published proposals on reforming anti-bribery law, upon which the new Act is based.
Related Categories: International