Company Director Criminal Offence Defence Laywer
The criminal defence lawyers at Draycott Browne in Manchester, regularly act for company directors who face criminal or regulatory investigation and prosecution under a range of statutes including the Theft Act 1968, the Fraud Act 2006, the Companies Act 2006, the Insolvency Act 1986 and the Bribery Act 2010.
We have also represented directors charged with offences of acting whilst disqualified, an offence that carries up to 2 years imprisonment.
An increased focus on corporate governance and individual accountability has led to directors and officers coming under more scrutiny than ever before. As a result, the number of claims against directors has increased in recent times, as has the need for directors to take specialist advice on their duties and on specific compliance issues.
There are many ways in which company directors can face sanctions, criminal liability or disqualification. In fact, there are so many possible offences, it is no wonder that business directors and officers often only learn of their susceptibility to scrutiny from the Police or a Regulatory body, when an investigation is well underway.
If you find yourself suddenly facing such challenging circumstances, it is vital to seek expert legal advice immediately. Draycott Browne is a specialist criminal law firm with the necessary expertise to protect you and your business. Our technical knowledge of such investigations spans regulatory corporate defence, criminal law, along with the full gamut of financial crimes and corporate fraud.
Although historically there have been relatively few prosecutions for the majority of crimes covered by the legislation, in part due to the challenge of proving liability, for several years now there has been an increasing tendency for the authorities to attempt to hold individuals liable for criminal offences committed by the companies which they are at the head of.
The penalties for directors found to have breached their duties or committed a criminal offence are severe. It is vital to seek advice from a specialist business crime defence lawyer if you are the subject of an investigation or you think you may be the subject of one in the future.
At Draycott Browne, we regularly advise directors when they have been accused of a criminal offence and have a long track record of achieving successful outcomes for our clients.
From the moment you instruct us, we will work with you to assess and review your business operations to not only defend you against current investigations but also to protect you against further allegations. We will help you to understand your professional and personal rights, while also working to protect your business and reputation.
Our legal team is available 7 days a week. If you or your business need expert legal advice or representation at any stage of an investigation, call Draycott Browne today using the number at the top of this page or complete our contact form and we'll call you back.
When your business faces the stiffest challenge, you cannot afford to settle for anything less than Draycott Browne.
Can a director be prosecuted for a criminal offence?
A director, manager, secretary or other officer of the company can be prosecuted for a criminal offence if personal liability can be established. This is to ensure the accountability of those in senior positions at companies engaging in criminal conduct.
In order for personal criminal liability to be established it must be shown that there was either ‘consent’ or ‘connivance’ on the part of the director in relation to the offence committed by the company.
In the event of a breach of the law, an offence is committed by every officer of the company who is in default.
According to section 1121(3) of the Companies Act 2006, a director or officer is in default if he or she “authorises or permits, participates in, or fails to take all reasonable steps to prevent” the offence being committed.
Draycott Browne provide a ‘premium’ criminal advocacy through our ‘privately funded criminal representation’. We are often trusted to act for business owners when they face the sternest legal penalties, even where the offence they are accused of is completely unrelated to their business activity, whether that be a driving offence, a sexual offence or murder
Can companies be prosecuted for criminal offences?
Under English law, a company is a legal person and is capable of being prosecuted for a wide range of criminal offenses. A company is not treated differently from an individual because of its artificial personality.
Companies can be held criminally liable for a wide range of offences, including health and safety offences, corporate manslaughter and those more commonly encountered in business contexts such as fraud, bribery, false accounting and certain Companies Act offences.
A company will normally only be criminally liable where the violation can be attributed to someone who was at or close to board level at the time.
The fact that a company can be held liable for a criminal offence does not prevent the prosecution of the individuals involved in committing the offence. It actually allows the net to be cast even wider in terms of individual responsibility.
A number of statutes contain provisions stating that if a company commits a criminal offence, a director is also guilty of the offence if it is proved to have been committed with the consent or connivance of the director, or as a result of their negligence.
In this context, ‘consent’ means being aware of what is going on and agreeing to it; and ‘connivance’ means knowledge together with a negligent failure to prevent. ‘Neglect’ implies a failure to take the appropriate action when under a duty to do so.
Consent, Connivance and Negligence
In order for personal criminal liability to be established against a director it must be shown that there was either consent, connivance or negligence on the part of the director.
One of the reasons for the lack of corporate prosecutions is that establishing the mental states of consent or connivance is inherently difficult.
In order for a director to have consented to the crime, there must be knowledge and agreement to the facts which amount to the offence. The director need not realise that the facts he or she was aware of and agreed to amount to a criminal offence.
Connivance is when the director knowingly turns a blind eye to the activity in question. The director is not actively encouraging what happens but lets it continue, saying nothing about it.
The Companies Act 2006 states that “a director must exercise reasonable care, skill and diligence” when running a company. A failure to do so may be deemed negligent. Breach of these duties can result in directors being disqualified and incurring personal liability.
Even careful and conscientious directors sometimes fall foul of the law. Sometimes directors can face personal liability for legal issues caused by someone else's mistake, solely by virtue of them being a director.
If you are a company director facing allegations of a business crime please call the expert lawyers at Draycott Browne today for confidential advice from one of our professional advisers.
What are the most common offences company directors are prosecuted for?
There are specialist agencies that prosecute corporate offenders for specific offences under their designated statutory framework (for example, offences contrary to the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 are prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive).
The most common offences that company directors are prosecuted for include:
- Breach of duty
- Fraudulent misrepresentation
- Fraudulent trading
- Falsifying documents
- False accounting
- Health & safety breaches
- Tax evasion
- Data protection breaches
How we can help
If you receive a warning or notice of intended prosecution it should be taken extremely seriously and acted upon as a matter of urgency. A director found guilty of an offence is likely to be disqualified and may be personally liable for any loss suffered by the company as a result. It is vital that you seek expert advice at an early stage to ensure you have the best possible chance of a positive outcome.
Get in touch to discuss your situation with one of our business crime specialists to see how we can assist.
The criminal defence lawyers at Draycott Browne have extensive experience of defending the full spectrum of criminal prosecutions brought against directors.
CONTACT DRAYCOTT BROWNE's Company director defence lawyers today
Our Business Crime specialists are part of the wider team of nationally recognised Criminal Defence Lawyers. Contact us today by calling +44 (0)161 228 2244. If you would like us to contact you, simply fill in our online enquiry form and a member of the team will be in touch as soon as possible.
As a leading Criminal Law firm, we regularly act for corporate clients and directors in London and throughout the North West including Manchester and Liverpool, when in need of expert legal representation and following allegations of white collar crime and regulatory investigations.
By entrusting your case to us, you can be assured that you will be working with a team of highly skilled and experienced solicitors who have a thorough and comprehensive knowledge of the law.
Our legal team is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. When your business faces the stiffest challenge, you cannot afford to settle for anything less than Draycott Browne.