A Deferred Prosecution Agreement (DPA) is an agreement between a designated prosecutor (probably the SFO) and a company whom the prosecutor is considering prosecuting for an offence that is specified in Part 2 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013 at section 45 and Schedule 17.
The impetus for DPAs came from Law Enforcement agencies in the UK who wanted more tools to combat corporate economic crime and to be empowered to deal with such crime in a way that is easier and cheaper for them to investigate and prosecute and to recover monies from such companies that they can then add to their budget. There is a Code for Prosecutors dealing with DPAs which was subject to consultation but remains an imperfect document.
The first stage that triggers the procedure will be the prosecutor becoming aware that there is a potential criminal course of conduct by the relevant commercial organisation. This could be a self report, a whistleblower or due to the prosecutor’s own investigation. Following on from this knowledge there would be a dialogue during which it may be established that the company is prepared to accept its wrongdoing, is committed to putting things right and is ready to enter into a DPA.
Under a DPA the company agrees to comply with the requirements imposed on it under the agreement, and the prosecutor agrees that upon the court approving the DPA the prosecutor issues proceedings in the Crown Court which are immediately suspended. This suspension may only be lifted on application to the Crown Court by the prosecutor. This application cannot be made whilst the DPA is in force. The company is also protected from prosecution by any other agency for the alleged offence.
A DPA can only be entered into with a body corporate, a partnership or an unincorporated association, but not an individual.
The Act sets out what has to be contained within a DPA. You will see that there is wide scope for discussion/negotiation in respect of the terms. Also see the speech by Oliver Heald QC MP for more.
Early expert legal advice is essential. The earlier the better
Contact Dennis Clarke to discuss your needs and agree a fee to resolve this. At the same time why not have a policy to deal with other eventualities that are usually ignored but which will be expensive if no plan is in place. See our business section for more.