A former magistrates' court clerk has become the first person to be sentenced under the UK Bribery Act, after he admitted accepting a £500 bribe to "get rid" of a speeding charge. Patel accepted the bribe in exchange for omitting to record a traffic offence on a court database and has been prosecuted under Section 2 of the Bribery Act for requesting and receiving a bribe intending to improperly perform his functions, as well as misconduct in public office.
Patel has been sentenced to six years in prison at Southwark Crown Court today after pleading guilty to bribery and misconduct in public office during his employment as an administrative clerk at London's Redbridge Magistrates' Court. He has been handed a three-year sentence under the Bribery Act and a six-year sentence for misconduct in public office. The two sentences will run concurrently, resulting in six years imprisonment. The offence for which Patel was convicted represented a course of alleged corrupt behaviour by Patel who prosecutors believe committed more than 50 similar offences over the course of more than a year.
Judge Alistair McCreath told Patel "A justice system in which officials are prepared to take bribes in order to allow offenders to escape the proper consequences of their offending is inherently corrupt and is one which deserves no public respect and which will attract none."
The three year sentence for an act of bribery for which Patel received just £500 demonstrates how seriously the Courts will treat bribery offences irrespective of the sums involved. It is only a matter of time before we see the first corporate prosecution for failure to prevent bribery and early indications are that the Courts will hand down very significant fines to companies and lengthy sentences to individuals who commit offences.
The sentencing of Mr Patel reinforces the need for businesses to adopt adequate procedures to prevent bribes being paid on their behalf. A business which implements adequate procedures to prevent bribery has a complete defence to liability under the Bribery Act 2010.
This case is indicative of the general increase in enforcement by the prosecuting authorities.
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