The Corner House submission to the Law Commission's consultation on Reform of Bribery Laws

by The Corner House

first published 31 March 2008

The UK has been criticised by the OECD and others internationally for failing to have adequate modern corruption legislation. Prosecutors have found it difficult to bring increasingly complex and global commercial practices to court under laws dating from the late 1800s and early 1900s.

In November 2007, the Law Commission (a statutory independent body that reviews the law and recommends reform where needed) announced a public consultation on reforming the UK's antiquated corruption laws (see Reforming Bribery: A Consultation Paper). It will publish a final report and draft Bill towards the end of 2008.

Will the Law Commission include some form of corporate liability in its new Bill? If it does not, the UK would still not comply with the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention, and key perpetrators of international bribery -- corporations -- would continue to act with impunity.

This Corner House submission to the Law Commission's consultation looks at corporate liability and at the role of the Attorney General in halting prosecutions of corruption offences where national security concerns have been raised. The Attorney General, a political appointee and member of the Government, is the chief legal adviser to the Government and responsible for all state or crown litigation. Under the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention, political appointees should not make decisions on corruption cases.