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Company first to be convicted under lobbying law




The Regulation of Lobbying Act 2015 The Regulation of Lobbying Act 2015 (“the Act”) was enacted on 11 March 2015 and commenced on 1 September 2015 with the aim of making the lobbying process more transparent by introducing a web based register of lobbying.  The Standards in Public Office Commission (the “Standards Commission”) is the independent body responsible for implementing and enforcing provisions under the Act. The Standards Commission created the web-based register of lobbying which provides information to the public on the identity of those who are communicating with Government and senior civil and public servants on public policy matters. Under the Act, lobbying activities are described as the making of communications, either written or oral, personally (directly or indirectly) to a designated public official which are not exempted communications and which concern the initiation, development or modification of any public policy, the preparation of legislation, or the award of any grant, loan contract, licence etc. involving public funds. The Act applies to the lobbying of Ministers, TDs, Senators, MEPs, local Councillors, special advisers, and designated public officials. Enforcement Provisions Part 4 of the Act in respect of enforcement provisions commenced on 1 January 2017. Section 18 of the Act sets out the “relevant contraventions” which include section 8 being the requirement to register prior to carrying out lobbying activities, section 12 for failing to make a return and providing the Standards Commission with any information known to be inaccurate or misleading or obstructing an investigation initiated by the Standards Commission under section 19. The Standards Commission is given the power to carry out investigations under section 19 if they have reasonable belief that a person may have committed or may be committing a relevant contravention and on 26 June 2019, the SIPO secured its first conviction under the Act in respect of the late filing of returns on representations of elected officials. Section 20 sets out the relevant offences and section 21 introduced fixed payment notices (“FPNs”). More detail in respect of FPNs can be found in our blog post in relation to the Regulation of Lobbying Annual Report 2018 which can be accessed here. First conviction under Section 12 of the Act  A Dublin based company, registered to lobby on 25 January 2017. The company was prosecuted after it failed to engage with the Standards Commission after being served with a €200 fixed penalty notice for failing to make returns for 2018 by the filing deadlines. The Company failed to make returns for the relevant period and was convicted and fined €1,250 by Judge Anthony Halpin at the District Court on 26 June 2019 for failing to make submissions to the Standards Commission on time as required under section 18(b) of the Act. Under section 20 of the Act, those found in contravention can be subject to a class C fine, a fine not greater than €2,500.