Saturday, 9 November 2013

The offence of Treating

Prior to hearing that the police are investigating a councillor who, 11 days before an election, bought tea and cake for residents of a care home, I hadn't heard of the offence, within electoral law, of 'Treating'.
 "A person is guilty of treating if either before, during or after an election they directly or indirectly give or provide any food, drink, entertainment or provision to corruptly influence any voter to vote or refrain from voting. Treating requires a corrupt intent – it does not apply to ordinary hospitality."
Of course, what we can't tell is whether or not there was realistically any chance of the 'treating' having an impact, for example, if the councillor knew no postal votes were requested by the residents, whether postal votes had already been cast, whether the residents had access to transport to the Polling Station, or indeed whether they were even registered to vote? It is also interesting to note that it is not the residents who are deemed guilty of receiving tea and cake which could have 'corrupted' but the potential candidate who bought the cake.

But visualise if the 'other advantage' under the Bribery Act  was also deemed to include 'treating' to food, drink and entertainment within a certain period of a contract award? Of course it would have to exclude 'ordinary hospitality' too, but then who's to say what constitutes 'ordinary hospitality'.

As we start to approach the season of 'one-way giving', I wonder how much takes place without gaining some 'influence' over future procurement decisions, only if it is to ensure an RFP is received at some stage which wouldn't otherwise have been. Aren't 'treats' for procurement all really just 'tricks'?

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