Partner Peter Binning comments on campaigners criticising the UK government’s slow pace of corporate crime law reform:
“It is really not surprising that the Government has ducked the issue of reforming corporate criminal liability. There is no current appetite in government or business for making it easier to criminalise companies and the pandemic will not increase that appetite anytime soon.
“The issue has been pitched well into the long grass by asking the Law Commission to prepare an Options Paper by late 2021 which might then result in a full scale consultation on the subject. It is easy for prosecutors to complain about how difficult it is to prosecute companies but there are good reasons for the corporate governance structures that are often said to obstruct successful prosecutions; of larger companies in particular.
“Those structures are there for good reason: in part to protect the company and its shareholders from an unjustified criminal prosecution. That is what lay behind the decisions of the Crown Court and the High Court to rule against the landmark SFO prosecution of Barclays Bank last year. Prosecutors will have to focus more on building cases against individual company directors in future rather than companies themselves.”