You may have seen in recent news that St Pauls Barrister, John Harrison QC, was part of a team who made legal history by securing an unprecedented bribery acquittal for Sarclad following a DPA. But what is a Deferred Prosecution Agreement? Here, we answer some FAQs regarding DPAs.
What is the Deferred Prosecution Agreement Definition?
In the instance of fraud or a financial crime case, a Deferred Prosecution Agreement (DPA) refers to a judge-supervised agreement between the prosecutor and defendant whereby prosecution is conditionally suspended while the defendant fulfils the requirements of the agreement in a set period of time.
What are the Terms of a Deferred Prosecution Agreement?
The terms of a Deferred Prosecution Agreement usually follow the lines of:
- Full cooperation with investigations
- Paying a financial penalty
- Paying compensation
- Cooperating with future, relevant prosecutions
- Repairing the damages done. E.g. firing those responsible, and putting additional parameters in place to prevent the crime from happening again
The agreed terms must be met in the agreed time period for the prosecution to be deferred.
Why Was the DPA Introduced?
The DPA was introduced in 2012 with the goal of giving prosecutors the resources they need to deal with a complex issue which might otherwise prove difficult to address.
Justice Minister Damian Green said DPAs ‘will ensure that more unacceptable corporate behaviour is dealt with including through substantial penalties, proper reparation to victims, and measures to prevent future wrongdoing.’
When DPAs are made in the interests of justice and have fair, reasonable and proportionate terms, they can have a number of benefits. For example, DPAs help avoid long and expensive trials and protect innocent employees and investors by giving corporations the chance to make things right without sanctions or reputational damage.
Who Can Enter a Deferred Prosecution Agreement?
DPAs only apply to organisations and aren’t granted to individuals – typically, they are used in the instance of fraud, bribery or other economic crimes.
How is a DPA agreed?
Before the defendant is invited to enter DPA negotiations, they must have first demonstrated full cooperation with case investigations. If the defendant complies with the investigations, negotiations may begin. An independent judge oversees Deferred Prosecution Agreements which are agreed in open court. The outcome is published to ensure transparency of the process and prosecution is suspended until the end of the agreed period when it is decided if the prosecuted organisation has met the agreed conditions.
Is a Deferred Prosecution Agreement an Admission of Guilt?
Provided the organisation meets the conditions of the DPA during the agreed period and is not convicted or charged of any other crimes in this time, charges are dismissed. Therefore, no admission of guilt is required. However, if the organisation didn’t meet the agreed conditions of the DPA, the prosecution process would be reinstated and the organisation could either plead guilty or go to trial. It is important to note that a Deferred Prosecution Agreement is different from a Deferred Judgment where the defendant must plead guilty.
If you would like to speak to a fraud barrister regarding DPAs or have questions regarding a fraud case, please contact our team of fraud lawyers.