The jurisdiction of the criminal courts of the United Kingdom was territorially based and this policy was endorsed by the Government following an inter-departmental review, which reported in July 1996. Though that review proposed guidelines, which were approved by the Government, which could be used to evaluate exceptional proposals to take extra-territorial jurisdiction, it seems unlikely that corruption would fall within the scope of such exceptions.
The offence of corruption, by its nature, can take place in more than one jurisdiction. The courts have held that, in England and Wales, provided one element of a corrupt transaction (the offer, acceptance, or an agreement to accept) takes place within the territory of England and Wales the courts will have jurisdiction over the offence. There are indications that the extent of the statutes are not widely understood, notably in the commercial sphere. It has been suggested that the jurisdictional extent of the offences should be set out on the face of any new legislation, for the sake of clarity. In Scotland there is no case law dealing directly with the question of the extent to which the Scottish courts can assume jurisdiction over offences of corruption where some of the relevant activities have taken place abroad. Express clarification in statute would therefore appear to represent an improvement on the current position in Scotland.
There have been suggestions in some international fora that this jurisdictional basis does not give the United Kingdom sufficient reach to regulate and control the activities of its nationals and companies who may be engaging in corrupt activities overseas. But the reach of the United Kingdom legislation would catch any corrupt act where an element of the corrupt transaction took place in this country.
Part 12 Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001: extends the above to jurisdictions with no connection to UK and to persons with no connection to UK.
Implementation of UK’s OECD obligations
The 1906 Act uses the term principal and agent. Though agent is defined widely as including "any person employed by or acting for another" it is debatable as to whether it extends to trustees, particularly of a private trust. The 1889 Act is restricted to public bodies and therefore acts, for example, of members of a local authority, who might be bribed to vote in a particular way at a caucus meeting, which had an effect on public policy, are probably not covered by existing statute law, though the common law offence of bribery may apply.
The term "corruption" does not only apply to bribery. As has been stated the 1906 Act applies to offences involving false documentation. There may also be situations where persons use their position to obtain an unfair advantage for themselves or another, which may fall within the common law offence of Misuse of Public Office. For example; if an officer of a committee of a local authority influenced or encouraged a member to vote in a particular way, the acts would be corrupt but bribery would not necessarily be involved.