• What happens on tour, stays on tour?

What happens on tour, stays on tour?

25 August 2020

The facts relating to the story about Harry Maguire (the Manchester United footballer) are still to be established by a Court. Some early reports included an allegation (which was firmly denied and omitted from later reports) that one of the group offered a bribe to the police to drop the charges. This will be a matter for the Courts to determine based on evidence rather than newspaper reports. The allegation does, however, raise an interesting question about the territorial reach of the UK Bribery Act 2010.

Let us imagine that a group of friends visit Ruritania for a stag weekend.  Whilst there, they hire bikes to get around. On the way back to the hotel, they are stopped by the police as they are not wearing helmets and are breathalysed. In Ruritania, it is a criminal offence to ride a bicycle whilst over the driving blood/alcohol limit. One of them offers the police officer €100 to let them go on their way. The police officer refuses and arrests them for the cycling offence. The next day all appear before the local court and are fined €1000 each for the cycling offence – the offer to the police officer is mentioned as an aggravating factor, but because of the amount involved, this is not pursued and the group return home to the UK.

But that is not the end of the matter. A local newspaper in the UK picks up the story and mentions the payment offer to the Ruritanian police. Could there be consequences in the UK?

The offer of the €100 is a bribery offence in the UK under Section 1(3) of the Bribery Act 2010. In this case, no part of the offence takes place in the UK, but that is not the end of the matter.  Section 12 extends the reach of the UK authorities, even where no part of the bribery offence takes place in the UK if:

  • The act (or omission) would form part of an offence if it had been done (or omitted) in the UK; and
  • The person carrying out the act or omission has a close connection with the UK.

In this case, the person who offered the bribe to the police officer is a British citizen. This is a close connection with the UK (Section 12(4) (a)) and is sufficient to allow the UK Courts to have jurisdiction.

What happens on tour does not always stay on tour

The example above occurs on a private trip, but what if the trip was a business trip and the bribe offered by an employee?  Would you, as an employer, have any exposure? What if there were customers in the group? These are legal questions which would require advice depending on the facts, but at the very least there could be significant reputational damage.

Anti-bribery and corruption policies should set out clearly the standard of conduct expected of employees and other persons acting on behalf of the business. Staff training should make employees aware of their responsibilities under the Bribery Act. It is crucial that these policies, procedures and related controls are reviewed regularly and kept up to date.

The legal requirement

The Bribery Act 2010 was introduced to update and enhance UK law on bribery including foreign bribery. It is now among the strictest legislation internationally with its introduction of a new strict liability offence for companies and partnerships of failing to prevent bribery. The corporate offence carries an unlimited fine. To avoid corporate liability for bribery, companies must make sure that they have strong, up-to-date and effective anti-bribery policies and systems. You will not commit the offence of failing to prevent bribery if you can show that your organisation had ‘adequate procedures’ in place to prevent bribery.

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