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Bribery

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BRIBERY is the offence of giving or offering and taking a bribe, pense, or reward as the consideration for, or inducement to, the neglect or version of an official duty or public act. The English law distinguishes between three main classes of bribery—namely, that of a magistrate, that of a public ministerial officer, and that having reference to the giving or procuring of votes. Since the Revolution of 1688, bribery of the first class—judicial bribery —has been altogether unknown in England, and at the present day it is the list offence that even the most detractor would venture to impute to any one of our judges. But before that time the state of affairs was very different. Even that supreme philosopher and wisest of Englishmen, Lord Bacon, was charged with and ultimately confessed the commission of this offence, alleging in extenuation that it was a general vice of the age. And yet he himself on an earlier occasion, as Lord Chancellor, addressed the following caution to a newly-appointed judge: "that his hands and the hands of those about him should be clean and uncorrupt from gifts and from serving of turns, be they great or small." In the fourteenth century one Sir William Thorpe, Chief Justice of England, having confessed to a remark able amount of judicial corruption, was condemned to be hanged, and all his goods forfeited to the Crown ; he was, however, immediately pardoned, and for centuries afterwards the corruption of the judges was notorious and unquestionable.

Bribery of the second class, that of a public ministerial officer, is a mis demeanour at common law in the person who takes, and also in him who offers the bribe. A clerk to the agent for French prisoners of war at Porchester Castle, who had taken money for procuring the exchange of certain prisoners out of their turn, was indicted for bribery and severely punished ; and a criminal information A% as granted by Lord Mansfield against a person who offered the First Lord of the Treasury a sum of money for a public appointment in the Colonies. Bribery with reference to particular

classes of public officers has been dealt with by several Acts of Parliament. Of such officers may be mentioned customs' officers, and also commissioners, collectors, officers, and other persons emploPyed in relation to the Inland Revenue. Connected herewith is the offence of bribing a juryman, or attempting to influence him as to his verdict ; such an offence may be the subject of criminal proceedings. So also is it a misdemeanour, both on the part of the person who offers or gives the bribe and the person who solicits or receives it, to bribe members, officers, or servants of corporations, councils, boards, commissions, and other public bodies, with a view to their doing or forbearing to do anything in respect of any matter, actual or proposed, in which the public body is concerned.

The third class of bribery, so far as it relates to parliamentary and municipal elections, has always been an offence at common law. Only prosecutions under statute are recorded in parliamentary instances, but in respect of municipal elections there is a recorded case in which a criminal information was granted against a man for promising money to a member of the corporation of Tiverton to induce him to vote for a particularperson at the election of a mayor. This part of the subject is considered under the title CORRUPT PRACTICES.