Back to previous book information pageBribery Act


After a very long gestation period, the Bribery Act 2010 came into force on 1 July 2011. The main purpose of this book is to provide a guide to the Act for those in the commerce and public service, as well as their advisers. This involves some analysis of the most important parts of the Act and discussion of the guidance material on adequate procedures and prosecution priorities which have been published recently.


Bribery and corruption have been an affliction of many societies from time immemorial. In 1693, William Penn pithily expressed a view many may share:

‘The taking of a bribe or gratuity should be punished with as severe penalties as the defrauding of the state.’

In more recent times in 2004, Kofi Annan, the then UN Secretary General described its effects:

‘Corruption is an insidious plague that has a wide range of corrosive effects on societies. It undermines democracy and the rule of law, leads to violations of human rights, distorts markets, erodes the quality of life and allows organised crime, terrorism and other threats to human security to flourish. This evil phenomenon is found in all countries – big and small, rich and poor – but it is in the developing world that its effects are most destructive. Corruption hurts the poor disproportionately by diverting funds intended for development, undermining a government’s ability to provide basic services, feeding inequality and injustice and discouraging foreign aid and investment. Corruption is a key element in economic underperformance and a major obstacle to poverty alleviation and development.’

No-one could but agree with these remarks, for reasons the author clearly explains in Chapter 1.

Much more difficult is finding the right means of preventing and punishing bribery and corruption, particularly where these crimes cross national boundaries. The Bribery Act of 2010 is the response of the United Kingdom by setting its law in a modern context and in line with its international

The preparatory work by the Law Commission was thorough. The Act is based on its draft proposals and draft bill. After some political controversy and the publication of the guidance under s 9 issued by the Secretary of State, it comes into force as this comprehensive book is published.

The book has been the product of immense industry, reflection and thought. It carefully traces the history of the legislation and then sets out in successive chapters a detailed and clear analysis of the legislation. It helpfully contains a number of appendices, containing not only the text of the Act and the explanatory notes but the guidance given under s 9, the DPP’s guidance and the OECD Convention and its commentary. One helpful feature is that it contains references to broader principles which provide a useful introduction to areas of the law with which some readers might not be familiar, but which are necessary to understand the operation of Act.

This book identifies the difficult issues of interpretation and attempts to answer them, as the author modestly claims. I have no doubt it will be of considerable assistance to the courts when such issues arise for decision, even if the answers given may sometimes differ from those elegantly suggested by the author.

It helpfully examines the practical implications of the legislation for companies and individuals in a way many will find useful. It tackles the issues relating to the likely policy of enforcement and prosecution. This last is an area to which much thought is now being given, for without effective, speedy and appropriate methods of enforcement and punishment, the Act will be seen as having failed its purpose.

Lord Justice Thomas
June 2011

Bribery Act 2010 Extracts