Bribery Act 5 years too late ?

Some may well argue and perhaps rightly so that lawbreakers will always be lawbreakers, they don’t check what the law is before they break it.

But, would the hacking scandal have happened if the Bribery Act had been passed at the time the scandal should have been dealt with in 2007 ? Well, on the one hand, there have always been quite stiff penalties for hacking. It is one of those offences where people can easily go to jail on a first offence and will maybe spend a year or more behind bars, so the penalties do have some “teeth” at least.

On the other hand,  some solicitors argue that what the Bribery Act brings to the table, as it were, is the new concept that top management will be vicariously liable for the actions of staff, even if they did not know of the actions, if they have not taken sufficient and ongoing preventative measures. So, in this instance, Rupert Murdoch could potentially have faced jail for the actions of his staff (who knows he still might although I doubt it somehow). When the buck genuinely stops right at the very top, change seems to miraculously happen, failing which there tends to be layers of protection embedded, and we are already seeing Murdoch vociferously blaming the solicitors …… who surely were in something of a conflict of interest situation, instructed by a massive client whose interests would not have been for their lawyers to advise that criminal activity was widespread. Who knows ?

Turning back to the Bribery Act issue, would this have covered the hacking situation ? Well, probably yes, since it already seems clear that payments were made for information and favour, to secure an advantage. And then there’s the issue of hospitality, causing sufficient embarassment for the Met Police Commissioner to contribute to his resignation tonight. Again, a Bribery Act issue.

Finally, many in big business lobbied hard to get the Bribery Act watered down, and it was somewhat… interesting in itself. Maybe I’m just getting paranoid though !