In the Media

Green light expected for deferred prosecutions

PUBLISHED October 23, 2012

Tuesday 23 October 2012 by Michael Cross

The government is expected today to give a cautious go ahead to US-style deferred prosecution agreements (DPAs) for corporate crime. A government response to a Ministry of Justice consultation held last summer is likely to to recommend changing the law to allow such deals to be struck between offending companies and the Serious Fraud Office.

DPAs act as a form of plea bargain, allowing a company to escape prosecution if it admits wrongdoing, takes corrective action and pays a penalty. The idea is to encourage self-reporting of white-collar crime, and to ensure fines are paid in the UK rather than overseas.

In the US, deferred prosecutions raise about $2.5bn a year in penalties.

Deferred prosecutions were strongly championed by the former solicitor general, Edward Garnier QC, who was replaced in the reshuffle.

In its response to the government's consultation, international law firm Pinsent Masons said the proposals for DPAs did not go far enough to protect companies against the risk of double enforcement. It also said new measures must be backed up by new investment in anti-corporate crime enforcement to fulfil their potential.

However, critics have raised concerns about the transparency of DPAs and their tendency to undercut the role of the judiciary.