“Specialises in contentious matters on behalf of clients, with a particular focus on fatal accident cases and corporate liability matters.”
BCL’s large team of specialist lawyers acts for corporates and/or directors and senior managers in investigations by all major UK law enforcement agencies, as well as in relation to international and multi-jurisdictional investigations.
Unlike in many other jurisdictions, such as the US, corporates in the UK are not generally automatically held liable for the criminal actions of their employees. Corporate liability for many serious offences in the UK depends on the prosecution establishing that an individual who was a “directing mind” of the company committed the offence by proving each element of the offence against him. His or her guilt can be attributed to the corporate without the need to prove anything further.
Other offences, including the ”failure to prevent” bribery offence, as well as health and safety and environmental offences, criminalise conduct which is not dependent on the seniority of the individuals involved. In some cases, the burden of proof is effectively reversed, for example requiring the corporate to prove that it had in place adequate procedures to prevent bribery, or had taken reasonably practicable steps to prevent risks to health and safety. Corporate manslaughter is a hybrid offence which criminalises gross management failure at the level of “senior management” which causes death.
The complex, and developing, law concerning corporate liability requires specialist lawyers to identify potential criminality and how that might attach to the corporate or other organisation. It is necessary to identify as soon as possible potential involvement by directors and senior managers, as this can be the mechanism by which the corporate can be held liable, and because senior officers are themselves usually exposed to a risk of criminal prosecution if they consent to or connive in the offence (or in addition, in the case of certain offences such as health and safety breaches, if the failure is attributable to their neglect). BCL’s expertise informs the approach to any corporate internal investigation, when critical strategic decisions are usually first made.
The levels of fines now being imposed on corporates, which have increased dramatically in recent years, together with the risk of disbarment from public procurement contracts, and the risk of fines and significant terms of imprisonment for directors and senior management, mean that now more than ever corporates must seek expert legal advice when potential criminal or regulatory issues first arise. It is BCL’s pedigree both in criminal law, and in acting for corporates and senior management, which sets it apart from its competitors.