Deferred Prosecution Agreements
A UK Deferred Prosecution Agreement (DPA) is an agreement reached between a prosecutor and an organisation which could be prosecuted, under the supervision of a judge.
The agreement allows a prosecution to be suspended for a defined period provided the organisation meets certain specified conditions.
DPAs can be used for fraud, bribery and other economic crime. They apply to organisations, never individuals.
The key features of DPAs are:
- They enable a corporate body to make full reparation for criminal behaviour without the collateral damage of a conviction (for example sanctions or reputational damage that could put the company out of business and destroy the jobs and investments of innocent people).
- They are concluded under the supervision of a judge, who must be convinced that the DPA is ‘in the interests of justice’ and that the terms are ‘fair, reasonable and proportionate’
- They avoid lengthy and costly trials
- They are transparent, public events
DPAs were introduced on 24 February 2014, under the provisions of Schedule 17 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013. They are available to the Crown Prosecution Service and the Serious Fraud Office. A Code of Practice for Prosecutors was published jointly by the SFO and CPS on 14 February 2014 after a public consultation. The Serious Fraud Office updated the SFO Operational Handbook in October 2020 to include a chapter on Deferred Prosecution Agreements.
How DPAs work
Under a DPA, a prosecutor charges a company with a criminal offence but proceedings are automatically suspended if the DPA is approved by the judge.
A company would only be invited to enter DPA negotiations if there was full cooperation with our investigations. The SFO does not take self reports at face value but must separately establish the extent of the criminality.
If the negotiations go ahead, the company agrees to a number of terms, such as paying a financial penalty, paying compensation and co-operating with future prosecutions of individuals. If the company does not honour the conditions, the prosecution may resume. Arrangements for monitoring compliance with the conditions is set out in the terms of the DPA.
The Director of Public Prosecutions and the Director of the SFO published a Code of Practice describing how they will use DPAs.
The Director and other people at the SFO have spoken further about our approach to DPAs in several speeches.
SFO Deferred Prosecution Agreements
Standard Bank, 2015.
Sarclad Ltd, 2016.
Rolls-Royce , 2017.
Serco Geografix Ltd, 2019.
Güralp Systems Ltd, 2019.
Airbus SE, 2020.
Financial information on the SFO’s Deferred Prosecution Agreements
Further background to the introduction and implementation of DPAs
The Government announced plans to introduce DPAs in October 2012. They were introduced in the Crime and Courts Act 2013 which received royal assent in April 2013.
There were 32 responses to the joint SFO-CPS consultation, which was published in June 2013, mostly from organisations. The Directors published a response to the consultation alongside their final code of practice.
The Sentencing Council published a sentencing guideline for corporate offences which can help inform prosecutors when they are making DPAs.