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Bribery is an offence under Section 356 of the Criminal Code 2002. The maximum penalty is a fine of 1000 penalty units and/or ten years imprisonment.

What is Bribery?

The offence of bribery is contained in Section 356.1 and 356.2 of the Code, which states that a person commits the offence if they dishonestly:

  • provide a benefit to someone else; or
  • cause a benefit to be provided to someone else; or
  • offer a benefit to someone else; or
  • cause an offer or promise of a benefit to be made to someone else; and
  • do so with the intention that the other person will provide a favour.

If a person bribes a foreign official they will be dealt with under Commonwealth legislation rather than state legislation.

What Actions Might Constitute Bribery?

Examples of bribery include:

  • paying your local MP money so you can construct a building without going through the resource consent process;
  • paying a public official money to allow you to operate a bar without the necessary liquor licence.

What Must be Proven?

To find a person guilty of bribery, the court must be satisfied that the person acted dishonestly, with the intention to:

  • cause a benefit to be provided; or
  • offered to provide a benefit; or
  • caused an offer of a benefit; or promise of a benefit to be provided when the accused or another person was not entitled to the benefit; and
  • had the intention of receiving a favour.

Related Offences

There are a number of other offences under the Criminal Code Act that are related to bribery.


Payola is an offence under Section 358. Payola occurs when a person who purports to make disinterested selections or examinations, asks for or accepts a benefit in exchange for influencing the selection or examination.

The maximum penalty for payola is 500 penalty units and/or 5 years imprisonment.

Abuse of Public Office

Abuse of public office is an offence under Section 359. This offence occurs when a public official exercises an official function, exercises official influence, uses information or engages in conduct in the exercise of their public duties with the intention of dishonestly obtaining a benefit or causing a detriment.

A person can be found guilty of this offence if they exercise their influence or use information that they gained as a public official whether or not they still hold their position as a public official.

The maximum penalty is 500 penalty units and/or five years imprisonment.

Possible Defences

A person charged with this offence can argue:

  • that they did not do the acts alleged (factual defence);
  • that they acted under duress.

Which Court Will Hear Your Matter?

All bribery matters will be dealt with in either the ACT Magistrates Court or the ACT Supreme Court.

When a matter is dealt with summarily (in the Magistrates Court) the maximum penalty is $15,000 and/or 5 years imprisonment. When the matter is dealt with on indictment (in the Supreme Court) the maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment can be imposed.


The maximum penalty is 1000 penalty units, 10 years imprisonment or both; however the court can impose any of the following penalties:

If you require legal advice about bribery or any other legal matter, please contact Armstrong Legal.

Andrew Fraser - Managing Associate - Canberra

This article was written by Andrew Fraser - Managing Associate - Canberra

Andrew works in the areas of criminal law and traffic law, providing practical advice in all of his clients’ matters. Andrew has, over many years, developed positive working relationships with prosecutors, magistrates and judges. His no-nonsense approach means he has a reputation for putting forward the best case possible for clients. Andrew has won many matters for his clients, including...

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