Current project status

  • Initiation: Could include discussing scope and terms of reference with lead Government Department
  • Pre-consultation: Could include approaching interest groups and specialists, producing scoping and issues papers, finalising terms of project
  • Consultation: Likely to include consultation events and paper, making provisional proposals for comment
  • Policy development: Will include analysis of consultation responses. Could include further issues papers and consultation on draft Bill
  • Reported: Usually recommendations for law reform but can be advice to government, scoping report or other recommendations

This project is complete. Our recommendations were implemented by the Bribery Act 2010

This project considered the full range of structural options for a scheme of bribery offences. It took into account the issues and views that have emerged since the introduction of the draft Government’s draft Corruption Bill in 2003. The review compared the law of England and Wales with the law operating in other jurisdictions and took into account international conventions and the body of experience around their implementation.

The review also looked at the wider context on corrupt practices to make it clear how existing provisions complement the law of bribery.

The project

On 20 November 2008 we published our final report on Bribery. Our recommendations include replacing the existing law with two general offences of bribery and one specific offence of bribing a foreign public official. We also recommend a new corporate offence of negligently failing to prevent bribery.

We received the following comments on our proposals from Lord Woolf:

“I am delighted to learn of the proposals of the Law Commission as to proposed amendments of the Law of Bribery.  Although the proposals still have to be reduced to their final form, it is already clear that these amendments would result in a much needed improvement to our law and would redress the criticisms that have been made of our existing law by commentators from home or abroad.  The new law should be much easier to enforce and while requiring higher standards of conduct is still perfectly fair.  Those who conduct their business ethically should not fall foul of the proposed law, while those who seek to hide their dishonest conduct by the use of third parties should not be able to do so.”


We published a consultation paper on 29 November 2007 on which we invited comments. We received over 30 responses. In the consultation paper the overall aim was for a new, clearly defined offence of bribery. We also proposed a new distinct offence of bribery of a foreign public official. We sought to make the law of bribery simpler and more appropriate to modern times and consistent with our international obligations.


In 1998 the Law Commission published a report and draft Bill on Corruption (LC248). This resulted in the Government’s draft Corruption Bill, which received its pre-legislative scrutiny by a Joint Committee in 2003. The Joint Committee heavily criticised the Bill and recommended that the scheme of offences be restructured.

In an attempt to seek a new consensus on the way forward, the Government published a consultation paper in December 2005. The consultation revealed that there is broad support for reform of the existing law but no consensus as to how it can best be achieved. As a result, in March 2007 the Government asked the Law Commission to take forward the findings of the Government’s consultation and to consider the options for reform further.

Documents and downloads

Project details

Area of law

Criminal law