Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Bribery, in English law, has a threefold meaning, as follows: - (1). The offence of a judge, magistrate, or other person entrusted with the administration of justice, accepting a fee or reward of any kind from the litigant parties to induce a favourable decision; (2) the receipt or payment of money to a public or ministerial officer with a view of inducing him to act contrary to his duty; (3) the giving or receiving money to procure votes at Parliamentary or other elections to public offices of trust. (1) By a statute passed in the second year of the reign of Henry IV. "all judges, officers, and ministers of the King convicted of bribery shall forfeit treble the bribe, be punished at the King's will, and be discharged from the King's service." The person who offers the bribe is guilty of a misdemeanour. The corruption of our English judges in earlier times was notorious and indisputable. It is noticed by Edward VI. in a discourse of his published by Burnet, as a complaint then commonly made against the lawyers of his time (Burnet's History of the Reformation, vol. ii., App. p. 721), and it prevailed to a much later period of our history, notably in the case of Lord Bacon, who confessed to the charge of bribery made against him, and by way of palliation referred to judicial corruption as being "the vice of the times." Since the Revolution in 1688 judicial bribery has been unknown in England, and no case is to be found in the Law Reports since that date in which this offence has been imputed to a judge in courts of superior or inferior jurisdiction. (2) Bribery in a public ministerial officer is a misdemeanour at common law in the person who takes and also in him who offers the bribe. Bribery with reference to particular classes of public officers has become punishable by several acts of Parliament. (3) Bribery at elections vitiates the same. As to parliamentary elections, the subject is now regulated by the Parliamentary Elections Act, 1868. Since the introduction of the ballot system the offence has, of course, become much less frequent if not entirely obsolete, as no one can now, with any safety, ensure a vote by bribery. As to bribery at municipal elections, see the Municipal Corporation Act (5 and 6 William IV., c. 76).