Deferred prosecution agreements

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Deferred prosecution agreements (DPAs) are voluntary agreements due to come into force on 24 February 2014, pursuant to which a prosecutor and an organisation can agree that as long as certain terms of the DPA are satisfied the prosecutor will initially suspend and eventually terminate criminal prosecution of the organisation. Essentially, although the organisation will not be pleading guilty to an offence, it will be admitting its wrongdoing and will receive a fine from the judge but will avoid criminal prosecution.

The Crime and Courts Act 2013, which contains the relevant provisions governing the introduction of DPAs, clarifies that individuals cannot benefit from DPAs, which can only be entered into by organisations, defined in the act as being bodies corporate, partnerships or unincorporated partnerships. In addition, DPAs are only available for a specified number of offences including fraud, bribery, money laundering and forgery offences, among others.

The decision to enter into a DPA must be taken by the designated prosecutor before proceedings have been commenced. Where a prosecutor believes that a DPA may be suitable, it must apply for a private hearing before the Crown Court for a declaration that entering into a DPA is likely to be in the interests of justice and that its proposed terms are fair, reasonable and proportionate. If such a declaration is made, the parties will negotiate the terms of the DPA, which will need to be approved by the Crown Court in a subsequent hearing before finally coming into force…

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