The Ministry of Justice has this week published a consultation on legislation allowing companies to self-report their involvement in financial crime, which could see prosecutions deferred pending payments of a fine.  The consultation will be conducted by Solicitor General Edward Garnier QC and Justice Minister Crispin Blunt.

Under the Deferred Prosecution Agreements (DPA), companies would agree to publically admit wrongdoing and face tough financial penalties as well as undertaking internal reform and submitting to regular reviews and monitoring.

Although the process would be overseen by a judge, the company would not be found guilty and therefore could escape being banned from tendering for public contracts. Instead, it would agree to undertake measures to address its illegal behaviour. Any repeat of that action would lead to automatic prosecution.

The Ministry of Justice says that the reasons for the consultation are to ensure that a higher proportion of economic crime is identified, investigated and dealt with. DPAs are a tool that seeks to achieve these goals whilst being transparent, clear and consistent.

Edward Garnier QC said: “If we can encourage companies to self-report and come clean, pay penalties and mend their ways, the time and expense of investigations and prosecutions will be better spent elsewhere, enabling us to bring more individuals and companies to justice.

“An important aim of any DPA system would be to allow investigators and prosecutors to focus resources on those cases where a prosecution is in the public interest – and there will always be some where it is the only option.”

And Crispin Blunt agreed that more needs to be done in this arena: “Deferred Prosecution Agreements will give prosecutors extra tools to tackle this type of crime and bring about a just outcome – which punishes the wrongdoer, ensures the surrendering of any proceeds and makes amends to victims.”