Deferred prosecution agreements came into force on the 24 March 2014 through the Crime and Courts Act 2013. They apply to organisations rather than individuals and encompass criminal offences such as fraud, bribery and other economic crime.
They are agreements reached under judicial supervision between a prosecutor and a company where a prosecution can be suspended for a defined period subject to a company adhering to certain defined conditions. Other than agreement, the pre-requisites will be that there is sufficient evidence for there to be either a reasonable prospect of conviction or that an offence has been committed and that deferring prosecution is in the public interest.
An agreement reached may involve the company in measures such as a paying fines or compensation or cooperation in the prosecution of individuals. The advantages for prosecutor and company include avoidance of conviction, certainty of outcome, potential reduction of costs, none of which are necessarily afforded by the court process. Crucially, there is also the ability to reduce corporate exposure to adverse publicity.
Any companies considering entering into an agreement will require advice regarding conditions to the agreement during the negotiating process. Our experienced commercial lawyers in tandem with our criminal litigators provide a strong body of expertise to ensure that the most advantageous agreement is arrived at.
The deferred prosecution agreements are similar to existing procedures commonly used in the USA. Given that, unlike many SFO prosecutions, they may be cost effective, for prosecutor and investigatee, many believe that they will become a commonplace prosecution tool for regulatory agencies.
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