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The Bribery Act 2010: how did we get here?


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Oliver Powell authored the second chapter of Lissack and Horlick on Bribery and Corruption. The following is a summary of his chapter, giving an overview of UK legislation prior to the Bribery Act 2010. It is part of a serialisation of the chapters that members of Outer Temple contributed to the publication.

As a result of piecemeal development over more than 100 years, the legislative framework which preceded the Bribery Act 2010 (‘BA 2010’) was complicated and confusing. The second chapter of Lissack and Horlick on Bribery and Corruption not only provides clarity on the pre-existing law but it also sets out how the Courts have dealt with pre-BA 2010 offences, which is highly significant given that the new offences created by the BA 2010 do not have retrospective effect.

Whilst the Sentencing Council’s Definitive Guideline on Fraud, Bribery and Money Laundering Offences applies to all offending individuals and organisations who are sentenced on or after 1 October 2014 (regardless of the date of the offence), the chapter’s exploration of case law which pre-dates these guidelines provides a useful indication of judicial approach in this area.

The chapter answers burning questions, such as: when does entertainment become a bribe? and what is the scope of ‘public office’? It also explains how the mental element involved varies from offence to offence. The very useful comparison between Public Bodies Corrupt Practices Act 1889 (‘PBCPA 1889’) and the broadly-worded Prevention of Corruption Act 1906 (‘PCA 1906’) is pertinent to the current landscape of increasing international trade, as the latter effectively makes it a crime to bribe any agent.

The chapter depicts two key concepts introduced by the Prevention of Corruption Act 1916: the extension of the meaning of ‘public body’; and the presumption of corruption, which represents a reversal of the burden of proof and applies to both the PBCPA 1889 and the PCA 1906. The chapter is extensive, encompassing the implications of both the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001, and the Representation of the People Act 1983.

The chapter is an invaluable resource for those advising unsuspecting, would-be agents conducting functions which have no UK connection and are carried out in a country or territory outside the UK, as well as those representing MP’s and other elected officials.

Read the Chapter

Oliver’s chapter is available for Lexis Nexis subscribers here.

About the Author

Oliver undertakes instructions that involve the regulation of business activity and commerce. His practice encompasses: asset forfeiture & civil recovery; business crime; commercial fraud; financial services; and indirect tax.

Oliver is routinely instructed in matters with an international element and usually cases involving allegations of dishonesty, sharp practice or breach of trust. He is a Barrister of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (BVI), a member of the New York State Bar Association, and in recent years has undertaken work in inter alia: USA, UAE, Greece, Falkland Islands and UK offshore jurisdictions such as the Isle of Man.

Recent or extant work includes:

  • representing Behzad Fuels (UK) Ltd in the Court of Appeal;
  • advising a well-known fund manager in relation to an FCA investigation;
  • retained to advise on the largest ever financial investigation conducted in the IOM;
  • representing a former SVP of Alstom Network UK charged with conspiracy to corrupt;
  • advising an individual following the London Capital & Finance Plc collapse;
  • advising a large corporate in relation to an investigation by OFSI;
  • advising a former Director of British Solar Renewables Ltd in relation to an SFO investigation.

Find Out More

If you would like to discuss any of the issues covered in this article please contact Oliver directly or via his practice management team; David Smith on (+44 (0)20 7427 4905) or Colin Bunyan on +44 (0)20 7427 4886.


Barristers: Oliver Powell
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