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Deferred Prosecution Agreements: new guidance for prosecutors

14 February 2014

The Director of the Serious Fraud Office and the Director of Public Prosecutions have today published a joint code of practice on the use of Deferred Prosecution Agreements (DPAs). DPAs become available to prosecutors from 24 February.

A DPA is an agreement reached under judicial supervision between the prosecutor and an organisation. The agreement allows a prosecution to be suspended for a defined period provided the organisation meets certain specified conditions. DPAs will only apply to organisations in cases of economic crime.

The publication of the code follows an extensive consultation exercise carried out over the summer last year.

David Green CB QC, Director of the SFO said:

"At present, when a company is convicted of a criminal offence, a court can impose a fine or put it out of business by winding it up. Both these outcomes can cause collateral damage to employees and shareholders who may be blameless.

"Deferred Prosecution Agreements avoid that collateral damage and provide a welcome addition to the prosecutor's tool kit for use in appropriate circumstances. But DPAs are not a panacea, nor are they a mechanism for a corporate offender to buy itself out of trouble.

"The most important features of the DPA regime outlined in the code are judicial oversight, and unequivocal cooperation from the corporate. Prosecution remains the preferred option for corporate criminality".

Alison Saunders, the Director of Public Prosecutions, said:

"Deferred Prosecution Agreements provide prosecutors with additional powers in the fight against fraud and economic crime. Whilst the circumstances appropriate to the use of DPAs may be quite rare for the CPS, the guidelines published today set out our approach to this new legislative function in an open and transparent way."

Conditions attached to a DPA may include disgorgement of profits; payment of a fine, compensation for victims and costs; cooperation in any prosecution of individuals; and implementation of a compliance programme, if necessary with a monitor appointed.

A DPA may be appropriate where the public interest is not best served by mounting a prosecution.  Entering into the agreement will be a fully transparent public event and the process will be approved and supervised by a judge.

Notes to editors:

1.         Fraud costs the UK £73 billion each year according to the Annual Fraud Indicator published last year. 

2.         The Government announced plans to introduce DPAs in October 2012 and they were introduced in the Crime and Courts Act 2013 which received royal assent in April last year. They are expected to come into use from 24 February 2014.  They do not apply to individuals.

3.         There were 32 responses to the joint SFO-CPS consultation, which was published in June 2013, mostly from organisations. There was general agreement on the code. Please see the full response and the final code of practice .

4.         The Sentencing Council recently published a sentencing guideline for corporate offences which can help inform prosecutors when they are making DPAs.

5.         The Criminal Procedure Rules Committee has published rules (page 5 onwards) in respect of the application and approval process for DPAs with an explanatory note.

6.         The Serious Fraud Office is an independent government department responsible for investigating and prosecuting serious and complex fraud, bribery and corruption. The SFO is headed by the Director who exercises powers under the superintendence of the Attorney General. These powers are derived from the Criminal Justice Act (1987).

7.         For further information please call the SFO Press Office on 020 7239 7000 / 7004 or email press.office@sfo.gsi.gov.uk