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LEGISLATION NEWS: The Bribery Act set for launch from July 2011

The much anticipated Bribery Act will come into force on 1 July 2011, the Government announced yesterday. 

The Act, which is designed to bring the UK in line with international regulations on anti-corruption legislation, will make it a criminal offence to give or receive a bribe. It aims to clampdown on corruption without being burdensome to business. The Act was due to come into effect in April 2011, but the Government decided to delay it following criticisms that the new law was neither clear nor workable, particularly for small and medium-size businesses. 

Commenting on the announcement, John Cassey, UK head of litigation and investigations at business consulting and internal audit firm Protiviti, said, “The Act reinforces the UK’s commitment to its OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) partners to help reduce corruption involving overseas government officials, particularly in developing markets. It goes further by clarifying the law on bribery of individuals, whether public officials or private, and creates a strict corporate liability offence if a business fails to prevent bribery by its employees and associated persons.” 

The Government’s announcement also included news of the publication of the Bribery Act guidance, designed to instruct companies on the measures they need to put in place to avoid being prosecuted under the Act.

Justice secretary, Kenneth Clarke, explained, “Without changing the substance of the Act, this guidance should save organisations of all sizes from the fears sometimes aroused by the compliance industry that millions of pounds must be spent on new systems that, in my opinion, no honest business will require in response to the commencement of this Act.”

Jeremy Summers, partner in the business crime and regulation team at law firm Russell Jones & Walker, commented, “The long-awaited guidance puts proportionality as a cornerstone of the way in which the Bribery Act will be enforced. Significantly, it states that the full force of the criminal law will not be brought to bear on well run organisations that are affected by an isolated act of bribery, and this will come as a relief to businesses.” He added: “The guidance also makes clear that normal and legitimate hospitality will not engage the Bribery Act. It does appear therefore that the Government has listened to the concerns of business and tried to soften the more extreme ways in which the Act potentially could have been enforced.”

To read the guidance, visit the Ministry of Justice website.
Read more about how the Bribery Act might affect B2B marketers.