David Green QC, Director of the SFO has advocated new criminal offences targeted at companies – on the basis that they should be liable if they simply fail to prevent fraud or theft, and so mirroring the corporate offence in the Bribery Act. Conviction could lead to unlimited fines, confiscation of profit and indefinite debarment from public contracts.
This proposed lowering of the bar for corporate criminal liability interestingly comes at a time when the SFO faces continued criticism over its apparent inability to bring corporate prosecutions. It also comes against the backdrop of the Government suggesting that it might be prepared to look at modifying the Bribery Act to reduce the compliance burden being placed on SME’s.
Whether the SFO should seek what some might term “prosecution light” is a point that will no doubt be debated in the coming months; but what appears clear is the continued increase of criminal powers directed at the business community.