Article by Richard Sallybanks and Shaul Brazil of BCL - 'Deferred Prosecution Agreements in the UK: The Dawning of a New Era in Criminal Enforcement Against Corporates? (International Comparative Legal Guide to Business Crime, 2014)'.
The Introduction reads:
"Corporations have been recognised in the UK as separate legal persons for over a century, and may therefore incur criminal liability for most kinds of offences. It is only relatively recently, however, that the appetite in the UK for the investigation and prosecution of corporate entities has increased significantly.
Historically, prosecutions of companies were generally limited to offences of strict liability, such as those under trading standards and health and safety legislation. These offences effectively impose an absolute duty on the company, do not require the proof of a mental element, e.g. intention or negligence, and allow a company to be prosecuted in its own right, with the actions of its employees being taken as its own and aggregated. In contrast, the prosecution of companies for offences requiring a mental element, such as fraud and corruption, continues to be a rare occurrence in the UK."