19 February 2014
On 14 February, in readiness for the addition of deferred prosecution agreements ("DPAs") to their prosecutorial toolkits from 24 February, the Serious Fraud Office ("SFO") and Crown Prosecution Service ("CPS") published the finalised version of their joint code of practice ("the Joint Code"). The Joint Code gives guidance on when they will entertain the idea of settling criminal investigations concerning corporate organisations by way of a DPA, how negotiations will work in practice and the types of terms which they may include. It is estimated that, once they become available, DPAs will be used (principally by the SFO) up to ten times per year.
The Directors of the SFO and CPS ("the Prosecutors") have made clear that prosecution remains their "preferred option" and that the use of DPAs as an alternative will only be deemed appropriate in a minority of cases where relatively stringent evidential and public interest tests (set out in the Joint Code and other guidance) are satisfied.
In our briefings to date tracking the progress of the legislation introducing DPAs and the Joint Code, we have considered some of the questions of most concern to corporate organisations. In this briefing, we re-examine these and some additional questions and consider the extent to which the Joint Guidance has clarified matters for corporate organisations.
Light at the end of the tunnel: UK prosecutors publish guidance on deferred prosecution agreements - 19 February 2014