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Bribery Act 2010

The purpose of the Bribery Act 2010 (“the Act”) was to reform the criminal law of bribery to provide for a new consolidated scheme of bribery offences to cover bribery both in the United Kingdom and abroad.

The Act replaced the offences at common law and under the Public Bodies Corrupt Practices Act 1889, the Prevention of Corruption Act 1906 and the Prevention of Corruption Act 1916 (known collectively as the Prevention of Corruption Acts 1889 to 1916). Earlier attempts were made to reform the law. The Salmon Committee on Standards in Public Life recommended updating and codifying these statutes following the Poulson affair in 1972. For further information on the history, see:

The Act replaced the old legislation with two general offences. The first covers the offering, promising or giving of an advantage (broadly, offences of bribing another person). The second deals with the requesting, agreeing to receive or accepting of an advantage (broadly, offences of being bribed).

The formulation of these two offences abandons the agent/principal relationship on which the previous law was based in favour of a model based on an intention to induce improper conduct. The Act also creates a discrete offence of bribery of a foreign public official and a new offence where a commercial organisation fails to prevent bribery.

The other main provisions of the Act include:

* replacing the requirement for the Attorney General’s consent to prosecute a bribery offence with a requirement that the offences in the Act may only be instituted by, or with the consent of, the Director of the relevant prosecuting authority;
* a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment for all the offences, except the offence relating to commercial organisations, which will carry an unlimited fine;
* extra-territorial jurisdiction to prosecute bribery committed abroad by persons ordinarily resident in the UK as well as UK nationals and UK corporate bodies.

The offences of bribing and receiving a bribe are described in more detail in the Bribery Act

Extra-territorial jurisdiction
The offences of bribing or receiving a bribe, and bribery of a foreign public official, may be committed outside the UK if the accused has a “close connection” with the UK. This includes British citizens and holders of other forms of British nationality, and legal entities incorporated in the UK. It also includes a person ordinarily resident in the UK.

The Act requires the Secretary of State for Justice to publish guidance about procedures that relevant commercial organisations can put in place to prevent persons associated with them from bribing. Guidance is available at:

Legaleze comment: there is a plethora of other, unofficial guidance on the Act. An article aimed at SMEs, dealing in particular with hospitality, may be found at:

An individual guilty of an offence under section 1, 2 or 6 of the Act is liable on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years, or to a fine, or to both. A company or other legal entity guilty of an offence under section 1, 2 or 6 is liable on conviction on indictment to a fine.
There is a defence in the case of conduct that would constitute a bribery offence where the conduct was necessary for the proper exercise of any function of the intelligence services or the armed forces engaged on active service.
A legal entity guilty of an offence under section 7 (failure to prevent bribery) is liable on conviction on indictment to a fine. But the legal entity has a defence if it proves that it had in place adequate procedures designed to prevent persons associated with it from undertaking such conduct.
There is provision for <Director's criminal liability>

What's new item:
09/10/2012: SFO publishes revised bribery prosecution policies
The Serious Fraud Office has reviewed its policies on facilitation payments, business expenditure (hospitality) and corporate self-reporting. The purpose is to:
* restate the SFO's primary role as an investigator and prosecutor of serious or complex fraud, including corruption;
* ensure there is consistency with other prosecuting bodies; and
* meet certain OECD recommendations.

[Page updated: 15/10/2012]

More information>
Bribery Act
Business records