Deferred prosecution agreements - the road ahead?

9 May 2012

The Government are going to consult on the introduction of Deferred Prosecution Agreements (DPA’s).  They will be attractive for both prosecutors and corporate defendants. In appropriate cases there will be no lengthy and costly trial or conviction but substantial financial penalties and implementation of agreed reforms.

However it is unlikely to be plain sailing for either the Government or those who favour their introduction. Many still believe that those who commit a crime should face a trial and await the outcome. The Judiciary will also have to be persuaded as in the past they have been reticent in having anything to do with negotiated agreements. Also who will police DPA’s and what happens if there is a dispute ?

DPA’s do exist in the USA. The system there is different . There will certainly be an attraction for the boardroom. If there has been any dishonesty DPA’s will give certainty, no conviction against the company and provide damage limitation.  Inevitably a  commercial decision may  be taken in some circumstances.

The latest figures I have seen suggest that fraud  and corruption costs the economy upwards of £50bn a year. DPA’s will be an considerable saving on investigations  and trial and will be seen as a pragmatic approach. If they succeed they may well lead to the introduction of multi-national agreements in courts for example in the US as well as in Britain.

My view is that they should be available in appropriate circumstances but they will have to be introduced carefully with appropriate safeguards and policing. What they must not do is bring the Justice system into disrepute.

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