Answer ... It remains to be seen whether deferred prosecution agreements (DPAs) are increasingly used as a means of concluding bribery investigations. The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has made it known that it is looking for increased cooperation from corporates and wants to see investigations concluded quicker, which could lead to more DPAs.
It would be a surprise if we saw any major legislative changes. The House of Lords Select Committee on the Bribery Act 2010 reported in 2019 that the Bribery Act is recognised internationally as the most comprehensive and far-reaching piece of anti-bribery and corruption legislation.
The government may be persuaded by the committee’s call for it to offer more advice to small and medium-sized companies on compliance with the act. The committee’s claim that there is a lack of cooperation between the Crown Prosecution Service, the SFO, the National Crime Agency and other agencies may lead to this being addressed, which could result in quicker decisions regarding prosecutions.
As it stands, however, the United Kingdom has legislation in place that is unlikely to be subject to any significant reform in the near future. The only changes we may see are likely to be in the way the enforcement authorities use the legislation at their disposal.
Current anti-corruption enforcement does appear to be taking an increasingly US-style approach, with the use of DPAs and new SFO Director Lisa Osofsky (who is American) expressing her desire to implement the use of informants and covert human intelligence sources. In doing this, Osofsky is echoing the United States, where the use of wires and informants is routine.
The SFO is also making increasing use of artificial intelligence tools to examine electronic documents and forensic computer expertise.
Strict liability offences seem to be gaining popularity. Part 3 of the Criminal Finances Act 2017 created a strict liability offence whereby a company, partnership or other ‘legal person’ commits an offence if it fails to take reasonable steps to prevent an employee or associated person from facilitating tax evasion. Consideration is being given to expanding the strict liability to an offence of failure to prevent financial crime, which could include a wide range of offences. As yet, however, this is not set to become reality.