The proposals introduce two new offences that could have important consequences for business
The Law Commission has proposed introducing two new offences to strengthen the UK laws on bribery.
The new offences are bribery of a foreign public official and negligently failing to prevent bribery by an employee.
The proposals come at a time when the UK's position on bribery have been under severe criticism both domestically and in international bodies such as the OECD.
“The state of UK bribery law, and the country's enforcement record, has been a national scandal.
Eoin O'Shea, partner at law firm LG
Eoin O'Shea, partner in the corporate crime and regulatory team at LG, who was consulted by the Law Commission on the reforms, said: ‘The state of UK bribery law, and the country's enforcement record, has been a national scandal. The Law Commission's proposed reform is very welcome - the proposed central offences are clear and close the legal loopholes that have developed over more than a hundred years of the old legislation.’
‘While most UK businesses will be pleased with the legal certainty offered by the central parts of the Bill, I suspect that the new offence of negligently failing to prevent bribery is going to be unpopular. Smaller companies, or companies unused to dealing with these issues may say, with some justice, that the new offence places an extra regulatory burden on them.’
He added: ‘The old culture of tolerance towards illicit behaviour overseas is gone. Culturally-based excuses such as 'everyone does it over there' will not be accepted anymore. The US authorities are very diligent in pursuing overseas bribery, and the same is true of Germany and other EU countries. The UK finally seems to be following this trend, and it will have important consequences for the way we all do business.’