The Bribery & Corruption Act and offences explained

7th May 2021

In Brief

The Bribery Act 2010 is designed to tackle bribery and corruption in their most common forms under UK law. Explaining that bribery means attempting to gain some sort of advantage, financial or otherwise, it defines four categories of criminal offence, most of which can be committed either by individuals or by companies. The most severe penalties for these offences range as high as 10 years in prison. 

Close-up Of Female Hands Holding Verdict In Courtroom

UK law comes down particularly hard on bribery and corruption, with robust and strict legislation in place to deter would-be offenders and punish those who are caught. This means that if you, or your organisation, are accused of bribery or corruption under UK law you can expect the consequences of a conviction to be severe. 

Having the guidance of experienced lawyers with a wealth of knowledge in this area can make all the difference to the outcome of your case, helping to safeguard your reputation and future. At Lawtons we have a team of highly respected lawyers with significant experience in dealing with this type of crime, and we will work alongside you to build the best possible defence and understand the full details and circumstances surrounding your case.

Securing the services of the right legal team is the most important step you can take at this stage. Don’t hesitate to call us today on 0333 577 0522.

What laws govern bribery and corruption in the UK?

The biggest single piece of legislation designed to tackle bribery and corruption under UK law is The Bribery Act 2010. Bribery is the most common form of corruption targeted by the law but other crimes such as extortion, fraud and the use of inside information to gain advantage are among other forms of corruption. These do not come under the Act.

What does bribery mean?

According to The Bribery Act 2010, bribery is defined as “giving or receiving a financial or other advantage” – meaning that the recipient of a bribe can be guilty of the offence just as much as the person giving or offering the bribe. A bribe is given or received “in connection with the ‘improper performance’ of a position of trust, or a function that is expected to be performed impartially or in good faith”.

In addition, bribery does not have to involve cash – it can take the form of other items such as gifts, lavish treatment or tickets to an event. Such an article does not have to have changed hands in order for a bribery offence to have taken place.

What is The Bribery Act 2010?

Coming into force in July 2011 in order to modernise the law around bribery, the Act deals solely with bribery. It does not cover other regulatory offences or forms of white collar crime and corruption such as fraud, tax offences or corporate crime.

It created new offences which carry hefty prison sentences and fines, overhauling existing laws which had dated back to 1889, and was delayed by a few months over disagreements as to whether “fair and proportionate” corporate hospitality could be considered bribery – eventually coming down in favour of companies which offer it on a genuine basis.

What offences can be committed under The Bribery Act?

There are four main types of offences which can be committed under The Bribery Act. Each carries its own level of severity and appropriate sentencing guidelines, and the definitions of these offences set out clearly who can be liable for them. These are:

Bribing another person

This can be committed either by an individual or by an organisation. A person can be guilty of this if they offer, promise or give an advantage – financial or otherwise – to someone else, with the full intention of inducing them to perform improperly.

Being bribed by another person

Again, this offence can be committed by either an individual or an organisation. It involves requesting, agreeing to receive or accepting an advantage as outlined above. 

Bribing a foreign public official

This can also be committed by either a person or an organisation. It involves offering, promising or giving an advantage to a foreign public official (defined as someone who holds a legislative, administrative or judicial position outside the UK, or exercises a public function on behalf of any other country). This is done with the intention of influencing the official and obtaining or retaining business.

Failing to prevent bribery

This offence can only be committed by an organisation, and it can be charged if a person “associated with” (performing services for or behalf of) the organisation is guilty of bribing another person or a foreign public official. It is a liability offence which means no negligence has to be proven. 

What is passive bribery?

Passive bribery is defined as any deliberate act undertaken to secure an advantage, including asking for a bribe, demanding a bribe, and receiving a bribe. It can be considered to be broadly the same offence as “being bribed by another person” as outlined above.

When can an organisation be liable for a bribery offence? 

As outlined above, a company can be liable if someone senior within the organisation commits a bribery offence – meaning that their actions can also be attributed to the company. 

In addition, if someone who performs services on behalf of your company commits bribery in order to obtain business for your organisation, the company could also be liable. This will depend on whether you can prove that adequate procedures were in place to prevent bribery in the first place.

Prosecutions of companies for bribery offences do not take place in England and Wales unless without one one of the two most senior prosecutors (the Director of Public Prosecutions or the Director of the Serious Fraud Office) being satisfied that a conviction is likely, and that prosecution is in the public interest.

What are the sentencing guidelines for bribery?

According to the Sentencing Council, culpability and harm in bribery offences are determined by factors such as level of involvement and financial motivation, as well as impact on individuals or the environment. The maximum sentence for a bribery offence is 10 years’ custody.

Bribery is an either-way offence, meaning that it is triable in either the Magistrates’ Court or the Crown Court.

What should I do if I am accused of bribery?

If you or your organisation is under investigation for bribery offences of any form, your future and reputation could be on the line. It is vital that you secure the services of legal professionals at the very earliest stage who will guide you through the entire process, working tirelessly to attain the best outcome possible. Speak to the friendly team at Lawtons today to find out how we can help you.

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