Bribery Legal Definition:

A secret payment to a public officer in exchange for preferential treatment.

Related Terms: Corruption

At common law, bribery was a criminal offence, as described in Russell on Crimes:

"... the receiving or offering any undue reward by or to any person whatsoever, in a public office in order to influence his behavior in office and induce him to act contrary to the known rules of honesty and integrity."

The United Kingdom enacted a Bribery Act in 2010 which defines bribery as follows:

"A person ... is guilty of an offence if (the person) ... offers, promises or gives a financial or other advantage to another person, and intends the advantage to induce a person to perform improperly a relevant function or activity, or to reward a person for the improper performance of such a function or activity ... (or) knows or believes that the acceptance of the advantage would itself constitute the improper performance of a relevant function or activity."

In US v Adcock, Justice Stephenson wrote of bribery in distinguishing it from extortion, as follows:

"Bribery ... connotes a voluntary offer to obtain gain; where extortion connotes some form of coercion."

In Razete, Justice Allen used these words:

"Bribery, a common law crime, is the offering, giving, receiving or soliciting anything of value with the intent to influence the recipient's action as a public official."

In her article, Karen Katz described bribery as a species of corruption:

"The most common form of corruption is bribery, defined as the giving or receiving of money, a gift or other advantage as an inducement to do something that is dishonest, illegal or a breach of trust in the course of doing business. Common examples of bribery include cash or other payments to secure government or commercial contracts, improper political or charitable contributions. kickbacks, excessive gifts and illicit payments to obtain a licence or other regulatory action."

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