DPP Rory Field
DPP Rory Field

Tougher anti-corruption laws could be in the pipeline in the wake of an international conference organised by the Bermuda Director of Public Prosecutions.

And harsher penalties for those convicted of corruption could be a recommendation after DPP Rory Field told us: “One of the areas we are particularly looking at is the whole issue of corruption legislation. There is work we now have to do based on -information we have collated over the last week.”

Review

He added: “Arguably, the current sentencing in offences of corruption is quite low. We might just review it and if we find -interesting things, we will pass on our views to those who think about what the legislation is.”

Mr Field was speaking after a two-day conference last week, which brought together lawyers and police from Bermuda, the UK, the Caribbean, US and Canada, to discuss anti-corruption laws and crimes that cross borders, like money-laundering and drug dealing.

Mr Field said that combating corruption, especially in public life, was an increasing concern around the world.

He added: “Bermuda is fortunate in that it’s a country which doesn’t suffer a great deal from corruption, but around the world it is seen as a problem. We always want to stay ahead.”

Mr Field stressed that changes in the law were a matter for legislators, not the DPP.

But he added: “If you see something, it’s perfectly legitimate to raise those concerns elsewhere. We need to review the framework to make sure we are implementing the legislation we have and make sure we have the right legislation. If we have, fine. If we haven’t, let’s improve it.”

And he said: “What is most important with a crime like that, wherever it happens, is that it’s properly investigated and the legal framework is there for a proper prosecution.”

Mr Field added that the two day event, sponsored by the Commonwealth Secretariat and held at the Hamilton Princess last week, was one in a series organised by his department to share best practices across national boundaries.

Previous events have looked general crime and forensics, cyber-crime and brought together prosecutors from North America and the Caribbean for a conference for the first time.

He said: “We have had a good flow of highly-qualified people coming here and, frankly, teaching us things, keeping us up to date and keeping us at the cutting edge of what’s going on elsewhere.”

He added conferences were cheaper and more efficient than sending DPP staff overseas for training.

Mr Field said that previous cross-border talks had highlighted the need for pre-trial cooperation between police and the prosecution service at a much earlier stage of proceedings, especially when major crimes were involved.

He added: “One thing we are thinking might be an important thing to do is formalising the debriefing that happens after trials.”

Mr Field said: “We’re very lucky here – there is a very good relationship between police and prosecutors, but what’s good can always be made better.”

He added the DPP witness care unit had also been created as a result of concerns raised at an earlier conference.

The news of a review of anti-corruption legislation and sentencing was welcomed by former PLP Premier Alex Scott, who earlier this year proposed an Untouchables-style anti-corruption team to keep the corridors of power clean.

Mr Scott said: “I’m certainly encouraged by this development and I have every reason to believe, while we did not hear back from Government about a letter we sent them, publicly one of the Ministers expressed support for the principle the proposed legislation reflected.

“It’s timely, it’s important and it’s certainly bringing Bermuda up to an international standard which is recognised as being part and parcel of good governance.”

Mr Scott’s proposed commission would be able to investigate past allegations, probe Government, the Civil Service and police and take on individuals of firms that attempt to bribe Bermudian lawmakers.

The commission would also be able to look into election campaign contributions and protect whistle-blowers.