Practice and Procedure


PUBLISHED June 12, 2012

Appeal - Conspiracy to give corrupt payments - Conspiracy to cheat

R v Majeed; R v Westfield: Court of Appeal, Criminal Division (Lord Judge CJ, Mr Justice Openshaw and Mr Justice Irwin): 31 May 2012

Section 1 of the Prevention of Corruption Act 1906 provided, so far as material: 'If any agent corruptly accepts or obtains, or agrees to accept or attempts to obtain, from any person, for himself or for any other person, any gift or consideration as an inducement or reward for doing or forbearing to do, or for having... done or forborne to do, any act in relation to his principal's affairs or business, or for showing or forbearing to show favour or disfavour to any person in relation to his principal's affairs or business... he shall be guilty... .'

Section 42(1) of the Gambling Act 2005 provides, so far as material: 'A person commits an offence if he - (a) cheats at gambling, or (b) does anything for the purpose of enabling or assisting another person to cheat at gambling.' The instant cases both arose in the context of 'spot-fixing' in cricket matches. M, a resident of the UK, was the agent for a number of players representing Pakistan, who arrived in England in the summer of 2010 as part of the Pakistan Cricket Board's (PCB's) tour of England (the tour). B was the captain of the team and A and MA were fast bowlers.

Each of them had signed a contract with PCB to provide full-time services to their country as professional cricketers. Such contracts contained provisions requiring them, inter alia, to comply with the International Cricket Council Code of Conduct rules regarding betting, match fixing and corruption. During the course of the tour, an undercover investigative journalist met with M on a number of occasions as part of a 'sting' operation. It was agreed that M would arrange with B, A and MA for the bowlers to bowl 'no balls' at specified times during the course of a test match between England and Pakistan in return for payment. Specific pre-arranged events occurred during the match as part of a deliberate 'fix'.

Such activities constituted, inter alia, unequivocal breaches of the employment contracts of B, A and MA. M was charged with conspiracy to give corrupt payments (count 1) and conspiracy to cheat (count 2), contrary to section 1(1) of the Criminal Law Act 1977. Count 1, in effect, invoked section 1(1) of the Prevention of Corruption Act 1906 (the 1906 act). It was agreed that count 2 involved a conspiracy to cheat at gambling contrary to section 42 of the Gambling Act 2005 (the 2005 act). W was a cricketer who was contracted to a county cricket club (the club) for which he had played, primarily as a bowler, for four years.

The spot-fixing in his case arose when he was offered and accepted £6,000 in return for agreeing deliberately to concede more than 12 runs off the first over he bowled in a match played by the club. W was charged, inter alia, with accepting or obtaining corrupt payments contrary to section 1(1) of the 1906 act (count 1). Following rulings by the trial judges on issues of law relating to the ambit of the offences alleged against them (the rulings), both defendants pleaded guilty to the offences alleged against them. The defendants appealed against conviction.

They submitted, in relation to count 1 in each case, inter alia, that the prosecution case was defective in law because an essential element of the offence based on the 1906 act could not be proved. The actions of the cricketers on the field were not 'aimed at' PCB or the club (the boards) and the offence could not be complete without some action or inaction by the boards consequent on an agreement by their employees to accept the bribes. The bribes were not intended to, and did not influence them in any way. M further submitted, in relation to count 2, that the offence contrary to section 42 of the 2005 act was directed to cheating at gambling which would otherwise be lawful and which occurred within the jurisdiction. The gambling which had taken place in the case of M was unlawful and had taken place abroad. Accordingly, there was no jurisdiction to try M for the 2005 act offence. The appeals would be dismissed.

(1) It was settled law that it was an essential ingredient of the offence under section 1 of the 1906 act that the action or forbearance of the agent should be aimed at the principal (see [19], [20] of the judgment). On the facts of the instant cases, the actions of the cricketers had fallen fairly and squarely within the ambit of the 1906 act and the conspiracy count against M and the count against W had been clearly established. Plainly, the way in which B, A, MA and W had performed had been personal to them and clean contrary to and far removed from the wishes of the boards which had employed them.

Nevertheless, looking at the realities of the situation, there could, on the evidence, have been nothing closer to the heart of the affairs or business of a cricket board than the performance of the players selected by them. In the instant case, the boards had not been involved in the activities of their players. Indeed, they had been unaware of them. If they had been aware of them, they would have done their best to prevent them. That was because the activities were immensely damaging to their affairs. In short, the boards had been victims of the corrupt activities. There could have been no clearer indication that the actions of, inter alia, M and W had arisen in relation to the boards' affairs or business (see [23]-[25] of the judgment). Independent Commission Against Corruption Comr v Ch'ng Poh 141 Sol Jo LB 139 adopted.

(2) The offence contrary to section 42 of the 2005 act was committed at the moment when 'anything' was done 'for the purpose of enabling or assisting' anyone else to cheat at gambling. It had nothing to do with the proper regulation of gambling; it simply created an offence of cheating (see [27] of the judgment).

In the case of M, the criminal conduct prohibited by section 42 of the 2005 act had occurred within the jurisdiction. The offence had been complete before any bet had been placed. The 'fix' had been organised in England, the matches which had been the target of the 'fixing' had taken place there and the rewards for participating had also been paid there (see [27] of the judgment). The rulings had been correct (see [29] of the judgment).

Mark Milliken-Smith QC (instructed by Kingsley Napley LLP) for M; Mark Milliken-Smith QC (instructed by EBR Attridge LLP) for W; Aftab Jafferjee QC and Sarah Whitehouse (instructed by the Crown Prosecution Service) for the Crown in the case of M; Nigel Peters QC and David Durose (instructed by the Crown Prosecution Service) for the Crown in the case of W.