Monday, 5 December 2011

Bribery Act and the Royal Mail

It's nearly Christmas and some of us, as we have done for a long time, will give a small gift to the likes of the local postman and binmen.

Recent guidance published by Royal Mail (see BBC News) advised postmen to politely decline any gift  over £30 in value. Now I don't know about you, but when I said a small gift, I meant a small gift, £30 pounds and over sounds a bit much to me.

But if someone wants to give a gift greater in value than £30 and the postie receives it in good faith, it's very unlikely to constitute a bribe.

Guidance by the Director of Public Prosecution ( Download in PDF format) is quite clear on the matter.

See also the website Merry Christmas from the Royal Mail: Postmen (and women) – tips could violate Bribery Act

Bribery is wrong and in his foreword to the 2004 United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) the then UN Secretary General (Kofi Annan) described the serious effects of corruption:

“Corruption is an insidious plague that has a wide range of corrosive effects on societies. It undermines democracy and the rule of law, leads to violations of human rights, distorts markets, erodes the quality of life and allows organised crime, terrorism and other threats to human security to flourish … Corruption is a key element in economic under-performance and a major obstacle to poverty alleviation and development.”

Joint prosecution guidance of the Director of the Serious Fraud Office and the Director of Public Prosecutions (see above for download link) define the scope of the Bribery Act 2010:

The Act takes a robust approach to tackling commercial bribery, which is one of its principal objectives. The offences are not, however, limited to commercial bribery. There may be many examples outside the commercial sphere where individuals attempt to influence the application of rules, regulations and normal procedures. Examples would include attempts to influence decisions by local authorities, regulatory bodies or elected representatives on matters such as planning consent, school admission procedures or driving tests.

So I doubt if it was ever intended to include say Mrs Jones from down road giving a Christmas gift to her favourite postman and possibly only daily contact with the outside world.

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