The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) and the Director of Public Prosecutions are seeking feedback on a draft code of practice for the use of Deferred Prosecution Agreements (DPAs), which are set to become law in February next year.
DPAs allow corporate organisations to settle allegations of criminal activity without being prosecuted. They may be used for fraud, bribery and other economic crime but apply to the company, not individuals.
Companies who admit publicly to wrong-doings will be offered immunity from prosecution, but have will have to agree and abide by a number of conditions, which may include payment of a financial penalty, payment of compensation, and co-operation with future prosecutions of individuals. If the conditions are not honoured, the prosecution may resume.
DPAs were introduced in the Crime and Courts Act 2013, which received Royal Assent in April this year, and the SFO is now seeking views on eight points covered in the draft code. These include the circumstances when a prosecutor should consider a DPA, the criteria to apply when making this decision, and on the disclosure approach envisaged.
The SFO has already made clear that entering into a DPA will be a transparent public event and the process will be supervised by a judge.
Barry Vitou, partner at law firm Pinsent Masons, said the code was part of a trend he described as 'the continued criminalisation of corporate law in the UK,' saying that 'the regulatory environment continues to strengthen.'
Vitou also pointed out that, unlike earlier suggestions to the contrary, the new legislation includes provision for the continued use of Civil Recovery Orders in circumstances where there is insufficient evidence for a DPA.
The draft code on DPAs is open for consultation until 20 September 2013 and details are on the SFO website HERE