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Business Crime Solicitors
The team at JMW consists of leading experts and specialists who represent clients nationwide. We have been and are involved in some of the biggest Business Crime investigations and prosecutions, and are ranked as a Top Tier Fraud Firm by the Legal 500, as well as Chambers and Partners.
The full-service offering by JMW allows us to be proactive, as opposed to reactive, when representing clients facing an investigation or proceedings. The dynamic team is robust and is able to take steps that may, ultimately, avoid any criminal litigation altogether.
Areas of Expertise
What we can assist you with:
- Environmental Agency Investigations
- False Accounting
- Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) Investigations
- Forgery and Counterfeiting
- Furlough Fraud Defence
- Health and Safety (HSE) Investigations
- Insolvency Service Investigations & Prosecutions
- Insider Dealing and Market Abuse
- International and Organised Crime
- Interview Under Caution
Why Choose JMW?
Ranked in Tier 1 of the Legal 500 and Chambers and Partners guides, our specialist and dedicated team offers clients the unique combination of business know-how and vast experience, meaning they are able to provide pragmatic advice and immediate solutions.
Our Business Crime lawyers are based in Manchester and London. Their niche skills are regularly in demand nationwide. Clients recognise the benefit of our vast experience and the day-to-day hands-on approach with all cases, no matter how big or small.
Fraudulent evasion of VAT and excise duty to the importation of large consignments of goods to the UK
Evan Wright was instructed by Mr S, a former senior executive of a large European bank following the client’s arrest upon arrival in the UK. Mr S was alleged to have assisted others in the fraudulent evasion of VAT and excise duty in relation to the importation of large consignments of goods to the UK.
A total of 50 consignments (each valued between £1 – 2 million) were seized and traced back to around a dozen individuals. Five were charged and faced trial over the course of three months. Mr S was found not guilty after re-trial lasting one month. The other defendants were found guilty at the first trial and received lengthy custodial sentences.
The case involved analysis of large amounts of documentation and data. Prosecution and defence of the case required international co-operation between three countries and took video / audio evidence during the trial from individuals outside the UK. Quite apart from the direct benefit of acquittal, the finding allowed Mr S to retain his dual nationality, employment and reputation as an international business consultant
Representation in front of regulator’s interim orders committee
Evan Wright represented a professional who appeared before his regulator’s interim orders committee. The regulator argued that suspension was ‘necessary to protect the public’ because the Respondent had failed to tell them about a police investigation when renewing their membership.
The Regulator argued lack of integrity and dishonesty. Evan argued that whilst suspension might be ‘desirable’ in this case, it was not ‘necessary’ and neither was it a proportionate response to the perceived risk, even taken at its highest. It was argued that suspension would actually create more prejudice to the client base and the age of the non-disclosure meant that the material risk had already dissipated. The committee agreed and refused the application for an interim suspension. The substantive case focuses on the distinction between lack of integrity and dishonesty.
Successful Acquittal in allegations of causing death by dangerous driving and causing serious injury by dangerous driving
Sam Healey has successfully defended a client facing allegations of causing death by dangerous driving, causing serious injury by dangerous driving and dangerous driving following a fatal road traffic collision.
The prosecution was authorised following an accident involving a car pulling out from a side road onto an A-road, into the path of a HGV, being driven by the defendant. The collision resulted in the death of the passenger and life changing injuries for the driver of the car. The prosecution acknowledged that the primary cause of the collision was the driver of the car pulling out in front of the HGV. However, they sought to allege that defects to the brakes of the HGV and the large articulated horsebox trailer it was towing were contributing factors.
The prosecution case against the driver was that the HGV and trailer combination allegedly each had dangerous mechanical defects which they argued would have been obvious to a competent and careful driver. The prosecution further alleged various breaches of drivers’ hours regulations (insufficient break and rest time), fraudulent misuse of the tachograph and breaches of animal welfare regulations.
From the outset of the proceedings, there were concerns regarding the police investigation, the work completed by their road traffic collision experts and the lack of disclosure. On review of the unused evidence provided by the prosecution, we identified a further braking system on the HGV which had not been tested or even noted by the police forensic investigation expert in his reports. Our requests for further disclosure, led to new evidence being served on each day of the trial.
On behalf of our client, we obtained expert evidence to support submissions that the police had not carried out effective testing or examination of our client’s vehicle. Furthermore, that the prosecution was unable to demonstrate that the alleged HGV brake defects existed prior to the collision. Despite serving a variety of defence expert reports, the Prosecution were undeterred and refused to reconsider the prosecution of this case. However, following robust cross-examination of the prosecution collision investigation expert, the prosecution were forced to reconsider their earlier decision; and before even closing their case, offered no further evidence against each count on the indictment (resulting in not guilty verdicts on all charges).
Successful defence in alleged dishonesty of accountant
Evan Wright represented an accountant in professional disciplinary proceedings who failed to notify his regulator and insurer about the existence of a criminal investigation into his practice. Although lack of integrity had to be admitted, the accountant was advised to deny the allegation of dishonesty in the subsequent professional misconduct investigation.
The regulator did not accept this submission and the matter proceeded to a contested hearing. The accountant was called to give evidence and submissions were made about the lack of dishonesty. The committee found that the accountant had not been dishonest. In light of the admissions already made, the panel imposed a reprimand and directed the accountant to pay costs. The lack of dishonesty was very important because an adverse finding in that respect would almost certainly have led to a striking off the register. The structuring of the written admissions and preparation for the hearing were most important in maximising the chances of securing this result and the continuation of our client’s practice. JMW’s professional regulation and fitness to practise team regularly represent professionals across all sectors when they are accused of breaching regulations.
Successful Acquittal in Allegations of Conspiracy to Defraud a financial institution and money laundering
Sam Healey has successfully defended a client facing allegations of conspiracy to defraud and money laundering. The individual was alleged to have used their trusted position to defraud a well-known financial institution and assist in laundering in excess of £350,000.
This was an extremely complex case which took over 7 years to investigate and authorise charge, followed by almost 2 years of criminal proceedings. The alleged offences dated back to 2012.The client was one of 4 alleged conspirators and the only individual to be acquitted in this case.
Following careful scrutiny of the prosecution case, including the financial institutions own internal investigation, a robust defence case was prepared coupled with extensive disclosure requests to assist in showing the innocent role played by our client. Separately, an application to stay the indictment as an abuse of process due to investigative failures and errors, was also made. This was coupled by the fact the extensive delays in investigating the alleged offences caused serious prejudice to our client.
Successful Modern Slavery Act defence in Conspiracy to Supply Class A Drugs
Sam Healey represented a client and secures his acquittal on the first day of trial.
It was alleged by the prosecution that a group of nine individuals, including our client, were running a large-scale and sophisticated Heroin and Crack Cocaine supply operation in the Merseyside and Greater Manchester area. It was suggested that our client was involved in the supply of drugs although took his instructions from those above him in the operation.
The role suggested by the prosecution was accepted, although it was argued that this was a case of forced criminality. Accordingly, following careful preparation and a referral via the National Referral Mechanism and review by the Single Competent Authority (‘SCA’), a positive grounds decision was reached confirming that the client had been a victim of Modern Slavery. However, whilst the SCA decision was successful, it is not held to be conclusive in criminal proceedings although can provide significant supporting evidence to the defence case. The prosecution was invited to discontinue the proceedings prior to trial but they refused to do so.
By the time the case reached trial, seven of the defendants had entered guilty pleas and only our client and one further individual was left to face trial. Further issues were identified and exposed in relation to the prosecution case against our client, in addition to arguments regarding their drug expert. Following legal argument and then an application by the prosecution for further time to obtain new evidence, we highlighted to the Court the strength of the defence case which included the SCA’s conclusive grounds that our client had been a victim of Modern Slavery. Accordingly, the Court refused the applications by the prosecution and later a formal not guilty verdict was entered on the Court record.
Discharge of an Account Freezing Order
Evan Wright and Charlotte Kerry were instructed by Mr. A, managing director and founder of a trading company. HMRC suspected that Mr. A had laundered money through his company during the lockdown period. There were also suspicions of Bounce Back Loan Fraud and incorrect claims for Furlough payments.
Consequentially, HMRC successfully applied for an Account Freezing Order (AFO) at the Magistrates Court, completely prohibiting any use of the business account. The AFO had the potential to cause a great deal of commercial damage.
Preparation revolved around identifying the legitimate source of the various cash payments and providing evidence of a legitimate purpose. Documentary evidence was crucial in establishing that the funds did not represent the proceeds of crime and were not intended for a criminal purpose. Approximately one month after the AFO was obtained, HMRC agreed to discharge the order and the business was re-established. No criminal charges arose.
Only Acquittal in Money Laundering Case at Inner London Crown Court
Sam Healey and Helen Kelsall represented a client and secured their acquittal after a 7 day trial at Inner London Crown Court.
It was suggested by the prosecution that the defendants were involved in laundering money that were the proceeds of a payment diversion fraud in the sum of $1.2 million dollars (£908,316.53 equivalent).
The fraudulent funds obtained were from an international bank who, upon instruction from their client (a merchant shipping company), transferred the full funds into the wrong bank account, from which it was suggested that the first defendant and others transferred the proceeds internationally.
One of the recipients of those funds was our client, who owned his own jewellery business. Notwithstanding the suggestion by the prosecution that our client must have known or suspected that the funds received to his business account was the proceeds from criminal conduct, we were able to show that he ran a legitimate business at the time of the transfers and that he neither knew nor suspected the origin of the funds was from criminal conduct, or that this was an attempt by the first defendant and others to launder the proceeds of crime.
Accordingly, our client was acquitted and the first defendant will be sentenced at a later date.
Conspiracy to defraud
Mike Rainford, Sam Healey and Sadie Thomson were instructed to represent the registered manager of a care home alleged to have been involved in a large scale conspiracy to defraud contrary to common law. The firm advised, assisted and represented the client for over two and a half years, from the original police interview up until the conclusion of the trial.
It was alleged by the prosecution that our client, alongside the owners of the care-home and other staff members, took advantage of vulnerable residents of the care home in order to defraud them over a number of decades. In particular, it was suggested that a number of residents were groomed and encouraged to distance themselves from their family members so that those involved in the fraud, valued at over £4 million, could gain financially. The prosecution also relied upon the fact that the defendants were appointed as the resident’s next of kin, obtained power of attorney, and became beneficiaries and executors of their wills.
In order for a jury to properly convict the defendants, they had to be satisfied that there was an agreement to dishonestly, and intending to gain for themselves or another or to cause loss to another, make false representations to others. To undermine the prosecution’s case, extensive evidence was obtained to support that our client had acted honestly and in good faith, and that she at no point deliberately made misrepresentations to the residents or others in an attempt to defraud them. In presenting our client’s defence we engaged the expertise of a handwriting expert to demonstrate that our client’s signature had been forged, carefully considered the metadata of important documentation to show our client’s lack of involvement in preparing such documents, highlighted important similarities between our client and other individuals who were not alleged to have been involved in the fraud, and advanced strong evidence as to our client’s good character.
Having heard extensive evidence from both the prosecution and the defence, in a trial lasting over a year at Liverpool Crown Court, the jury could not be satisfied of our client’s involvement in the alleged fraud and she was acquitted of all counts that she faced.
Acquittal in alleged Class A drugs conspiracy
Hojol Uddin and Sadie Thomson secured the acquittal of an individual alleged to have been involved in a large scale drugs conspiracy. Following a six week trial at Bolton Crown Court the jury returned unanimous not guilty verdicts in respect of the following counts faced by the defendant:
- Conspiracy to supply a controlled drug of class A contrary to section 1(1) of the Criminal Law Act
- Encouraging or assisting an offence contrary to section 46 of the Serious Crime Act 2007.
Our client had also been charged with conspiring to supply class B drugs, however the prosecution offered no evidence in respect of this charge shortly before the trial was due to commence.
The defendant was alleged to have played the leading role in a large scale conspiracy to supply cocaine. The prosecution case relied heavily upon covert surveillance evidence, obtained over a period of fifteen months, and telephone calls and messages between the alleged co-conspirators.
In the alternative, the defendant was charged with encouraging or assisting others in the supply of drugs, unlawful wounding with intent, and/or fraud through the supply of encrypted devices. In order for a jury to properly convict the defendant of this charge, they had to be satisfied that the defendant supplied the encrypted devices, knowing that those to whom he supplied them, would commit the offences specified. Whilst the defendant accepted that he had supplied the devices, he denied that he did so in the furtherance of any criminal agreement or to assist others in the commissioning of various criminal offences.
In order to undermine the prosecution’s case, those instructed gathered a substantial amount of evidence to support the defendant’s instructions. By engaging a digital expert to download various relevant phones and laptops, the defence were able to place messages that the prosecution had sought to rely upon in the correct context. Furthermore, a significant amount of helpful material was obtained through the making of disclosure requests to both the prosecution and external parties, such as the probation and prison services.
Following a thorough analysis of the prosecution evidence and the careful presentation of the defendant’s case, JMW Solicitors LLP were able to secure unanimous not guilty verdicts in respect of all of the counts faced by the client.
OFSTED Suspension Representation
Evan Wright advised two independent children’s nurseries following decisions by OFSTED to suspend the operation of both settings. Evan attended meetings with OFSTED and prepared written representations.
Appeals were lodged and although case management hearings were fixed, OFSTED voluntarily lifted the suspensions in advance of the hearings.
The approach was collaborative, transparent and productive. Confrontation and criticism would have achieved nothing, although some robust submissions were made about the timing of the information supplied to OFSTED as part of reaching their decision to intervene. The settings reviewed their policies to give OFSTED greater assurances going forward and updated training to minimise the risk of future non-compliance. The matter was funded by a fixed fee, which offered best value to nurseries wishing to budget in difficult circumstances. The whole matter was resolved within two weeks.
Arrest warrant obtained against alleged fraudster in private prosecution
Lee Adams and Amy Shaffron – instructing David Whittaker QC – successfully obtained an arrest warrant against a defendant in a fraud prosecution being brought by JMW on behalf of two victims
The defendant is the subject of a private court summons charging him with fraud and money laundering offences in the sum of almost £1 million. He is alleged to be a confidence fraudster who duped many people into investing in a bogus fund in the UK. Many of the victims are from outside of the UK and the total value of the alleged fraud exceeds many millions of Euros/pounds.
The application for an arrest warrant came about because the defendant failed to attend the first court hearing following the grant of the summons against him. It was proved that the summons had been served at the correct address and that the defendant was on notice of the hearing.
Following the grant of the arrest warrant, the UK law enforcement authorities were alerted and the defendant will be arrested and brought before the court when he next comes to their attention.
Acquittal in Harassment Trial
Peter Grogan successfully represented a client facing harassment charges pursuant to the Protection from Harassment Act 1997. It was suggested by the prosecution that the client had pursued a course of conduct which was known or ought to have been known amounts to harassment of the complainant. The prosecution relied heavily on messages and calls between both our client and the complainant.
The case turned on an interpretation of Section 1(2) of the Act. Peter successfully argued that the “reasonable person” test ought to be interpreted in terms that the “reasonable person” ought to be regarded as vested with knowledge concerning the detail of the relationship and also the detail of the defendant’s fragile mental health.
In order to rebut the suggested adverse inferences by the prosecution, Peter Grogan advocated through careful scrutiny of the phone download that our client was in fact the victim. It was argued that the complainant was an individual of a manipulative nature and character, references supporting such accusation were provided. Further, the defence were able to highlight to both the prosecution and the Court that the complainant had also made calls of a significant length to the defendant which had not been included in the original prosecution bundle.
Consolidating all evidence, Peter Grogan advocated that the vulnerability of our client based upon medical history allowed the defendant to be manipulated by the complainant, and it was concluded that it was therefore our client who was the injured party.
No hidden assets and maximum credit for an early guilty plea
Sam Healey was instructed to represent the head of an organised crime group operating out of Merseyside in a confiscation hearing and also appeal.
Sam Healey was instructed to represent the head of an organised crime group operating out of Merseyside in a confiscation hearing and also appeal.
The client accepted his role as suggested by the prosecution in that he was the head of a conspiracy to supply cocaine and had supplied as much as 303kg and at least 216kg of Class A drugs (cocaine) over a 6 month period. The client had been brought back to this jurisdiction following the execution of a European Arrest Warrant. For confiscation purposes, the prosecution calculated the benefit from the supply of drugs to be at least £6.4million and therefore suggested that the client must have hidden assets. The response that we submitted was that the client’s only asset was a watch that was valued at approximately £2,000.Having prepared detailed submissions which relied upon the prosecution’s own evidence to support the defence case, we were able to successfully show that there were no hidden assets.
In particular, it was submitted that the conspiracy was not a profitable enterprise, that there was no evidence of an extravagant lifestyle and the evidence demonstrated that the client’s assets were as described, a single watch. On the day of the confiscation hearing due to take place, the prosecution conceded the evidence and the submissions that were made by the defence and ultimately that the client did not have any hidden assets. Therefore, a confiscation order was made by agreement in that there were no hidden assets and the client’s only available asset was a watch and cash to the combined total value of £2,250.
In separate proceedings at the Court of Appeal, we were also able to secure a reduction in the client’s sentence where it was argued that insufficient credit had been given for the client’s early guilty plea. In particular, the definitive guideline in relation to ‘reduction in sentence for early guilty plea’ dictates that a reduction of one-third should be made where a guilty plea is indicated at the first stage of the proceedings, this normally being the first appearance at the Magistrates’ Court. However, the guidelines also confirm that where there are particular circumstances that significantly reduce a defendant’s ability to understand what is alleged or otherwise make it unreasonable to expect a defendant to indicate a guilty plea sooner than it was done, a reduction of one-third should still be made. The sentencing Court initially found, despite submissions to the contrary, that the maximum credit that should be afforded to the client was one of 25% (one-quarter). However, we were able to persuade the Court of Appeal that in the circumstances of this case and from the case management form that had been completed by Sam Healey at the Magistrates’ Court, that that could not be the client’s first reasonable opportunity to plead guilty as we had not received any evidence or a case summary. This was agreed by the Court, who further reduced the client’s sentence allowing for the full one-third to be applied.
Evan Wright was instructed by B in a banking fraud case, described as one of the largest ever cases prosecuted by the Crown Prosecution Service. It was alleged that individuals associated with the impaired assets division of a large UK high street bank lent money to struggling businesses when the businesses were not in a position to be turned around.
Instead, the bank appointed external business consultants who took control and charged large fees in the course of stripping assets. The companies were often sold at a discount and the bank lost its lending; ultimately prejudicing the tax payer.
The direct losses were in the £millions, but the wider loss is still the subject of litigation and is said to be in the £billions. Client B was alleged to have been involved in the laundering of the criminal proceeds by assisting one of the main conspirators.
Over the course of two years, Evan Wright made repeated submissions to the prosecution regarding B’s lack of the requisite knowledge or suspicion. The prosecution eventually discontinued the case against B shortly prior to trial. All but one of the others were convicted at trial and received lengthy prison sentences.
HMRC concedes appeal against cash forfeiture
Sam Healey was instructed by two clients who were stopped by Border Force as they were about to board a flight to Thailand.
Sam Healey was instructed by two clients who were stopped by Border Force as they were about to board a flight to Thailand. It was suggested at that time by the Border Force Officers that the cash seized (in excess of £55,000) represented criminal property and that it had either originated from criminal conduct or was to be used for criminal conduct. Later, HM Revenue & Customs (‘HMRC’) confirmed as the prosecuting authority, that they believed that the cash had not been properly declared to HMRC for tax purposes. This, however, ignored the fact that the cash that had been seized was the income for a legitimate business and income that had fallen across two tax years. In effect, there had been a period of delay before some of the cash that had been seized was even due for declaration as income to HMRC.
In this particular case, the delay in the appeal being progressed due to the unavailability of witnesses and also the impact of Covid-19 worked, somewhat, to the Appellant’s advantage. By the time the appeal was heard (by coincidence at a Nightingale Court at the recently transformed Lowry Theatre), the position was that the whole amount of cash that had been seized had been declared in self-assessment returns submitted to HMRC. Accordingly, the tax returns had been filed and also the necessary tax had been paid. Whilst this had been made clear to HMRC over a number of months following the seizure of the cash, by the time that the appeal was due to take place, HMRC had no option but to concede that their basis for forfeiture of the money in the first instance was no longer valid. More specifically, the argument that the money was ‘recoverable property’ was without merit.
The appeal was therefore allowed and the full amount of money that had been seized at the airport, subsequently ordered to be forfeited at the Magistrates’ Court, is now to be returned in full. In addition, HMRC are required to pay some of the client’s legal costs and also interest on the costs that were paid at the Magistrates’ Court, which also must be returned.Sam Healey worked with Helen Kelsall and Richard Dawson, a barrister at Lincoln House Chambers
No agreement to commit murder
Sam Healey represented a client who was jointly charged alongside five others in relation to an allegation of conspiracy to commit murder, in addition to other counts of conspiracy to inflict grievous bodily harm and violent disorder.
Sam Healey represented a client who was jointly charged alongside five others in relation to an allegation of conspiracy to commit murder, in addition to other counts of conspiracy to inflict grievous bodily harm and violent disorder. It was suggested by the prosecution that the client had conspired with others to plan and execute an attack on a group of individuals who were working in the local area. It was suggested that the attack was arranged following an earlier altercation between the client’s brother and a group of individuals where injuries had been caused. It was further suggested that there were more than 15 individuals who had been called upon to provide support in the attack that took place.
The prosecution case relied heavily on telephone call records and cell site analysis, in addition to CCTV evidence and eyewitness accounts. Also, in order to assist the Jury in interpreting the relevance of calls and the location of individuals, diagrams and coloured charts were prepared to aid the Jury in not only understanding the information, but also in the hope that the Jury would agree with the suggested inferences that should be drawn from the information.
In order to rebut the suggested adverse inferences by the prosecution, through careful scrutiny of the CCTV evidence, raw call data records and having independent experts analyse the area that the cell site masts covered, we were able to present a robust defence case that showed that our client could not have been part of the altercation. In addition, that our client was located elsewhere (albeit in close proximity to the altercation) and that the theory and interpretation by the prosecution of the sequence of events was fundamentally flawed. Through this expert analysis of the prosecution case and careful preparation, we were ultimately able to show to the Jury that the prosecution’s case rested on one call. A call that lasted a number of seconds and that they were being invited by the prosecution to find our client guilty of conspiring with others to commit murder (with five others), let alone having sufficient time to introduce himself on the call and explain the reason for the call.
It probably comes as no surprise that Sam Healey, Catherine O’Rourke and Andrea Lock of counsel (Barrister at 9 St John Street) was able to secure a unanimous acquittal of their client on all counts that he faced.
Death by careless / dangerous driving
Sam Healey was instructed to represent the CEO of a finance company, having been arrested on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving contrary to Section 1 of the Road Traffic Act 1988.
Sam Healey was instructed to represent the CEO of a finance company, having been arrested on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving contrary to Section 1 of the Road Traffic Act 1988.After further enquiries, the police then alleged that the driver of the vehicle that collided with the deceased had consumed so much alcohol that the proportion in breath exceeded the prescribed limit. In addition, that the driver had failed to stop after a road traffic collision whereby injury was caused to another person, and failed to report the accident contrary to Section 170 of the Road Traffic Act 1982 and Schedule 2 of the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988. The maximum penalty for causing death by dangerous driving or causing death by careless driving when under the influence of drink contrary to Section 3A of the Road Traffic Act 1988 is 14 years imprisonment with a minimum disqualification of 2 years and a compulsory extended re-test. For the reasons set out below, having instructed JMW Solicitors LLP to advise, assist and represent during this serious and sensitive case, the outcome was considerably different to what one would have expected in light of what was initially alleged.
Having been instructed by the client as his preferred solicitors over those recommended by the funding insurance company, we were able to arrange within a matter of days for a full forensic reconstruction of the collision to take place. The collision took place in the early hours of the morning and in very unusual circumstances; therefore, by completing a full reconstruction with photographs and videos to visually aid in understanding the circumstances surrounding the collision was key in providing robust and proactive representation on behalf of the client. This allowed us to be clear about the facts of the collision and have an expert’s opinion in relation to whether the collision was avoidable or not. This also allowed further investigations to take place by the defence team and ensured we had a full understanding of the circumstances in which the collision occurred in readiness for a further interview under caution. Having tactically considered how to approach a further interview under caution, whilst charges were then still laid for proceedings to commence at Court, it resulted in the prosecution having to reconsider their initial view that the driving was dangerous and reduce this to one of driving without due care and attention (careless driving) in amongst other allegations.
From the outset of the proceedings (the first appearance at the Magistrates Court), we were able to apply considerable pressure to the prosecution and set out clearly further disclosure that was required. This related to the concerns about the investigation conducted by the police and the accounts provided by an eyewitness. Such requests for disclosure were well founded and having been drip-fed further disclosure of materials and information from the prosecution, we were then able to raise further legal arguments in respect of; the conduct of officers; failings in the investigation generally; links between those investigating the case and witnesses; how witnesses had come to provide their accounts and whether there had been compliance with the Criminal Procedure and Investigations Act 1996. These issues ultimately led to an abuse of process argument being advanced and in addition, applications to exclude evidence in accordance with Section 78 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984.
After changes to how the prosecution put their case upon receiving defence expert reports, trial dates being lost due to inadequate disclosure, over two years having passed since the unfortunate collision, and extensive legal arguments being raised, the prosecution finally accepted that they would have difficulty in proving elements of their case. The ultimate sentence that was passed by the Court was one of a suspended prison sentence with requirements.
Due to the proactive steps taken in the initial part of the investigation, the continued efforts to protect our client’s interests and the detailed and complex legal submissions that were deployed. This allowed Sam Healey, Catherine O’Rourke and Ben Smitten of counsel (barrister at 25 Bedford Row) to be able to secure a just result for their client of a suspended sentence, as opposed to facing what the police initially alleged and a custodial sentence of up to 14 years.
Were the prosecution out of time to prosecute an offence at the Magistrates Court?
Evan Wright - instructing Jason Pitter QC - represented a defendant charged with sending obscene and offensive messages by WhatsApp. The charges were contrary to s.127(1) Communications Act 2003.
Evan Wright - instructing Jason Pitter QC - represented a defendant charged with sending obscene and offensive messages by WhatsApp. The charges were contrary to s.127(1) Communications Act 2003.
S.127(5) Communications Act 2003 provides “an information or complaint relating to an offence under this section may be tried by a magistrates’ court in England and Wales or Northern Ireland if it is laid or made –
a. before the end of the period of 3 years beginning with the day on which the offence was committed; and
b. before the end of the period of 6 months beginning with the day on which evidence comes to the knowledge of the prosecutor which the prosecutor considers sufficient to justify proceedings.
S.127(7) provides that a certificate of a prosecutor as to the date on which evidence described in subsection (5)(b) came to his or her knowledge is conclusive evidence of that fact.
The case revolved around whether the court could go behind the face of the S.127(7) certificate to enquire as to the accuracy of the date used to calculate the end of the 6 month period. In other words, the defence relied upon the factual matrix in an agreed chronology suggesting that the evidence came to the knowledge of the prosecutor at a much earlier stage; meaning that the certificate could be ‘plainly wrong’. The defence therefore asked the court to hear evidence and reach a determination on which date should be preferred for the purposes of S127(5)(b).
The District Judge decided that the court could make this enquiry. The prosecuting lawyer was called to give evidence and was cross-examined. The judge determined that the case formed exactly the scenario foreseen by Males LJ, in Chesterfield Poultry Ltd v Sheffield Magistrates’ Court  EWHC (Admin) in which “if…the responsible individual…were to review the file so as to have knowledge of all the relevant evidence, but only made a decision about prosecution at a later date…the date when the file was reviewed would be the date when the evidence came to the prosecutor’s knowledge”.
The judge decided that all of the evidence was available in May 2019. Even allowing for the number of potential charges and defendants and the resulting complexity, there was ample time for a decision to have been made within the statutory limits, months before the date on the certificate in November 2019. The judge found that the certificate was ‘plainly wrong’ and the prosecution was therefore out of time. The proceedings were dismissed. Serving a detailed defence case statement and actively pursuing multiple disclosure applications was critical in establishing whether the certificate might be wrong. In complex summary only enquiries where charges are laid or summonses are issued in cases of this type at a point more than six months after the investigation comes to the suspect’s attention, it is worth investigating whether the date on the S.127(7) certificate might be wrong. In the vast majority of cases it will be correct, but in this particular case, the investigation was worthwhile. Even if the prosecution had succeeded, the defence argued privacy and threshold issues on the facts. However, the decision in relation to the certificate meant that there was no need for the factual argument.
JMW secure unanimous not guilty verdict in gangland murder trial
Hojol Uddin, Sadie Thomson and Evan Wright represented and secured the acquittal of an individual alleged to have been involved in a machete attack upon another. David Whittaker QC and Harry Bentley of 2 Hare Court were instructed to represent the defendant at trial.
The defendant appeared before Manchester Crown Court this year for what is likely to be the last Operation Leopard prosecution. Operation Leopard was the Greater Manchester Police investigation into a number of attacks deemed to form part of what was described by the prosecution as “Salford gang warfare.” Other incidents forming part of Operation Leopard included the shooting of Paul Massey, a grenade attack upon a family home, and the shooting of the wife and child of an individual said to be associated with one of the “gang leaders”.
The most recent trial focussed upon the shooting of one individual and a machete attack upon another, both of whom were alleged to have been associated with a gang known locally as ‘the A team’. The allegation against the defendant was that he was involved in the placing of the GPS tracker on the victim’s car, which enabled the other conspirators to locate him prior to the attack. Furthermore, the defendant was alleged to have been present when the tracker was monitored, and to have attended at the scene of the attack on the evening of the incident in order to remove it from the car and avoid police detection.
Following a thorough and detailed analysis of the CCTV and telephone evidence, the defence were able to effectively place calls and events relied upon by the prosecution into their proper context. The jury returned unanimous not guilty verdicts in respect of the allegation of conspiring to murder and conspiring to cause grievous bodily harm in the alternative.
Counsel instructed were David Whittaker QC and Harry Bentley of 2 Hare Court.
Allegation of crypto-currency fraud
Evan Wright was instructed by D to attend a police interview when it was alleged that D and members of her family had been involved in a crypto-currency fraud.
It was said that an online investment company attracted clients who would invest money in daily, weekly and monthly plans against promises that the returns would be anything from 5% to 15% over a very short period.
The company attracted very large sums from individual clients and although initial returns were made, later investments by the same clients were not repaid and the company failed to meet its obligations. The police investigated and found that a small number of investors had opened a large number of accounts and had actually secured some profit from the operation. The officers thought that these investors might be part of the fraud, in that they would attract other investors into the scheme and manage their investments to the ultimate benefit of the main fraudsters. Advice therefore revolved around persuading the officers that our client was an ordinary investor who happened to avoid being defrauded. They used a method which made it very difficult for the fraudster to avoid returning a profit to the client’s crypto-currency wallets. The explanation was quite technical and had to be supported with a substantial pack of evidence presented during the police interview, but the officers subsequently agreed that the client should not be regarded as a suspect. This meant that the client’s crypto-currency wallets containing over £50,000.00 could be released and D was free to realise the profits. This case is to be distinguished from one in which someone is claiming to have been defrauded and seeks legal advice in the recovery of the funds. D’s case involved an allegation that she was the fraudster.
Allegation of acting unlawfully during a public order incident
Peter Grogan and Evan Wright advised a solicitor who was alleged to have acted unlawfully during a public order incident. The police offered a community resolution, rather than a formal interview and court proceedings.
The client sought advice on whether he should accept the offer and what implications it would have for his practice. Instructions suggested a possible defence in these particular circumstances.
Furthermore, Evan was asked to advise on whether the matter should be reported to the SRA and would the client have to disclose the resolution to his employer? Community Resolutions provide an opportunity for the police to deal with appropriate low level offences and offenders without recourse to formal criminal justice sanctions. This may include a simple apology, an offer of compensation or a promise to clear up any graffiti or criminal damage. Many of the crimes the police investigate are not committed by prolific, dangerous offenders. Sometimes they are a momentary lapse in judgement by otherwise law abiding people. However, accepting a community resolution in this situation would have involved a detailed consideration of reporting obligations, particularly 7.7 and 7.8 of the Solicitors Code of Conduct. The Code was changed in November 2019 to place much more responsibility upon the individual solicitor to decide whether matters should be reported to the SRA. The concern was that Paragraph 7.8 would oblige the client to inform the SRA, so that the SRA could decide whether or not to launch an investigation. The very fact of an investigation would have to be declared to his employer because of the nature of the client’s work. There were also concerns that the resolution would appear on an enhanced DBS check, even though it is not regarded as a conviction or caution for reporting purposes. The client was advised that he should seek further information from the officer about how the police proposed to describe the allegation in the ‘circumstances’ section of the resolution form, having regard to the need for an ‘admission’ and with particular reference to the potential defence. Following a conversation with the officer, the police decided not to take further action and closed their file. This removed the need for further consideration of the reporting obligations. Even though the incident was straightforward, the implications for the client’s practice could have been far reaching. The case was opened and closed within one week, incurring very limited costs.
Investigation by the Solicitors Regulation Authority
Evan Wright was instructed by a firm of solicitors investigated by the SRA in relation to the firm’s connection with building developments, which were said to be unregulated collective investment schemes. The SRA alleged serious breaches of SRA Principles and argued a failure to recognise issues raised in SRA warning notices.
During an investigation lasting over a year, Evan advised the firm in the various legal and factual submissions made to the SRA. Notwithstanding the SRA’s determined stance from the outset and potentially adverse findings from a forensic level investigation of the firm’s work, the SRA eventually agreed not to take any further action. In doing so, the SRA acknowledged the steps taken by the firm to inform itself of the risk and to deal with it appropriately. A referral to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal and a decision against the firm could have had serious consequences for the practice. Instead, careful presentation and analysis of the issues led to an acceptance on the part of the SRA that no breaches of Principles had occurred.
Investigation by a Local Authority to the safeguarding of children
Evan Wright was instructed by a children’s nursery when it faced investigation by the Local Authority in relation to a safeguarding issue. It was alleged that staff had failed to spot and appropriately deal with harm potentially caused to the child by a family member. The Local Authority portrayed the investigation as a fact finding exercise when it was – in reality – an enquiry with possible criminal consequences. The investigators wanted the nursery to make some damaging admissions.
This was resisted at meetings with the Local Authority and JMW prepared witness evidence from staff, along with written submissions setting out the steps taken by the nursery to identify risk factors. This was a multi-agency investigation involving determined efforts on the part of the Local Authority to attach blame to the nursery. It became clear that, without legal advice, the nursery would have felt obliged to agree with the Local Authority when there was no legal or factual basis to do so. The investigation was eventually closed without action being taken against the nursery.
Alleged fraudulent discounts
Evan Wright was instructed by M, managing director and founder of a company offering logistics services to large corporations across Europe. It was alleged that M has allowed his company to be used to fraudulently obtain discounts on large amounts of IT equipment from the supplier, a multinational company.
It was said that the main perpetrator had used different companies in the same way, thereby accessing £millions in discounts. JMW negotiated a settlement with the supplier on a favourable basis and avoided a potentially devastating criminal investigation. The company re-established itself with minimal commercial impact to its client base and turnover.
HMRC inspection of a company’s claims for input VAT
Evan Wright was instructed by company S, following an HMRC inspection of the company’s claims for input VAT. The Revenue alleged that the company knew or should have known that it had involved itself in a fraudulent VAT chain when ordering goods from particular EU countries.
The loss to the revenue was said to be over £1 million. The company originally instructed another firm of solicitors, but HMRC rejected the initial submissions and the company sought advice from Evan Wright, who made a second submission for a statutory review. The Revenue accepted the submission and discontinued the case. The company was therefore able to reclaim the £1 million VAT originally denied by HMRC. Evan then made similar submissions to the Revenue regarding a second (allegedly fraudulent) VAT chain involving the company. HMRC accepted that the company had done nothing wrong in its dealings with its suppliers and allowed the corresponding claim for input VAT, also in a sum of over £1 million.
Representation of prominent politician
Evan Wright represented a prominent politician, accused of misconduct in a public office and corruption. Following a very complex investigation and JMW’s written representations, the Crown Prosecution Service decided not to proceed against Evan’s client, although the investigation continues against others
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