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Court to rule on first proposed deferred prosecution agreement in the UK on Monday

Out-Law News | 27 Nov 2015 | 2:31 pm | 1 min. read

A court in London is expected to decide on Monday whether to approve a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) provisionally put in place by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) and Standard Bank.

Lord Justice Leveson has already approved the DPA "in principle" but will be asked to give his "final approval" for the agreement at Southwark Crown Court, the SFO said.

Details of the DPA have already been discussed before Lord Justice Leveson in a private hearing involving the SFO and Standard Bank. Monday's hearing will be public. The SFO said it would publish the DPA it has proposed if the judge approves it.

David Green, director of the SFO, had earlier this month told delegates at a regulatory conference hosted by Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, that the first deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) to be reached in the UK was "imminent" and that a further DPA with another company is also likely "to be signed by the end of this year".

Anti-corruption law expert Barry Vitou of Pinsent Masons said: "This is the first DPA that has been agreed by the SFO and a corporate and has been eagerly awaited. We can expect it to be the first of many. Commentators, companies and their advisors will want to scrutinise the detail of the first DPA as it will be important in indicating the criteria for such an agreement to be set."

DPAs are deals that UK prosecutors have had the ability to put in place with corporate offenders since February 2014. They are designed to encourage businesses to self-report wrongdoing in the hope of more lenient treatment.

Depending on the circumstances of the case, a DPA may require an offender to pay a substantial fine and/or to compensate victims, to submit to regular reviews and monitoring, and to undertake reforms to prevent the conduct in question from occurring again.

Courts have final sign-off powers over DPAs put in place between companies and prosecutors. Companies that fulfil their obligations in the agreements within the specified timescale will avoid prosecution for their wrongdoing, according to guidelines published by the SFO and Director of Public Prosecutions last year.