A first time for everything
1st June 2012
A former magistrates court clerk has become the first person to be convicted under the Bribery Act 2010.
Munir Patel was a clerk at Redbridge Magistrates Court and pleaded guilty to bribery and misconduct in public office. Mr Patel had developed a scheme whereby he would offer people charged with driving offences a way out in exchange for money. He would advise people on how to avoid prosecution and would use his position within the Court to alter records so that penalty points were not added to their licences.
Mr Patel was caught following a sting operation by the Sun Newspaper. Because some of his conduct occurred after 1 July, when the Bribery Act 2010 came into force, he was charged with offences under the Bribery Act. Under Section 2 of the Act it is an offence for a person to request, agree to receive or accept a financial or other advantage intending that, in consequence, a relevant function or activity should be performed improperly.
Mr Patel was sentenced to six years imprisonment for misconduct in public office to be served concurrently with a three year sentence for bribery. The maximum prison sentence for a bribery charge is currently ten years.
At the time the Bribery Act was drafted it was thought that its main purpose was to deter corruption among larger companies. However the CPS commented following sentencing that they will “continue to target those who act corruptly purely for personal gain and tailor the charge to effect their wrongdoing”. This case is a clear demonstration of the CPS’ intention to take action against acts of corruption regardless of size or monetary value.
When the Bribery Act came into force last year it introduced four new criminal offences relating to bribery: bribing another; being bribed; bribing a foreign official and, for organisations specifically, failing to prevent bribery taking place. Small and medium sized businesses are advised to ensure that their practices and policies go far enough to prevent employees and agents becoming involved in any form of corrupt behaviour. Failing to do so not only places the business at risk of sanction, but also directors who can may be given a personal fine or even a jail sentence.
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