That post title sounds a bit like a philosophical treatise by John Milton, doesn’t it? But actually I am referring to the rather less abstract Bribery Act 2010. I’ve been talking about this legislation a lot this week, mostly in the form of apologies to Guernsey clients for visiting it upon them. Our area of concern is, of course, the ever-popular section 7 offence of failure of commercial organisations to prevent bribery. And how might they fail? By not having in place “adequate procedures” to prevent bribery. And as I said the phrase over and over again, it occurred to me how, well, inadequate it is.
I do realise that the drafting of legislation is a process akin to horsetrading, albeit with more manure – we’ll give ground on this point if you let us win on that one. And so I can imagine that someone at the outset of the drafting of the Bribery Act wanted the defence to be having in place “comprehensive procedures” or “appropriate procedures” or even “effective procedures”. Then it was lunchtime and out came the sandwiches, and the “effective procedures” chap wanted the prawn bap, but someone else had already grabbed it – and then offered to swap it for his chicken panini and something a bit less demanding like, I don’t know, “adequate procedures”. And so we have ended up with just the most unambitious of standards. How was your holiday/dinner/emergency surgery? Oh, adequate. It’s hardly the standard for which to aim, is it?