Section 190: Cartel offence: penalty and prosecution
411.Subsection (2) sets out that the OFT and SFO will be the only named prosecutors for the offence in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. A third party could only bring a prosecution with the OFT’s consent. This is designed to enable the OFT to prevent vexatious private prosecutions against recipients of leniency (see below). The Lord Advocate will prosecute the criminal offence in Scotland; no legislative provision is required.
412.The scope of the offence generally extends to agreements that are implemented or intended to be implemented in the UK. This means that in general agreements do not need to have been implemented for an offence to have been committed. Subsection (3) provides for the exception to this, which is that agreements reached overseas may only be prosecuted if some subsequent action is taken within the UK to further the agreement. An instruction to others to implement the agreement, delivered into the UK by telephone or electronic mail, might be a sufficient action for this purpose.
413.Subsection (4) provides for the leniency process. It provides the OFT with the power to issue an applicant for leniency with a written notice that he or she will not be prosecuted for the particular matter under investigation provided certain contractual conditions set out in the notice are met. These conditions would be likely to include that the applicant: makes an admission of guilt; must not be the lead cartel member; must cease all involvement in the cartel (except as directed by the OFT to avoid arousing the suspicions of the other parties); must co-operate fully with the investigation; and must make a full disclosure. The notice is intended to encourage informants to come forward by providing them with sufficient comfort that they will not be prosecuted. In Scotland, the decision to prosecute rests with the Lord Advocate, who will take into account a report from the OFT.