Practice and Procedure


PUBLISHED June 16, 2003

A conviction for conspiring to cheat the public revenue was unsafe and would be quashed as the direction given by the trial judge could have misled the jury by directing they could convict a defendant of conspiracy even where there was no agreement between him and the co-accused to commit the offence.Appeal, with leave of the single judge, against conviction for conspiracy to cheat the public revenue on 17 December 2002 at Kingston-Upon-Hull Crown Court before HH Judge Dowse. The defendant ('W') was sentenced on 19 December 2002 to three and a half years' imprisonment and was disqualified from acting as a company director for ten years. The co-accused were all acquitted. W was a specialist tax accountant who advised T, a co-accused, in relation to business affairs. A company of which T was a majority shareholder sold property and a scheme was arranged to secure roll over relief on the profits. Fraudulent documents were organised which suggested the company was part of a group therefore entitling it to roll-over relief. It was the prosecution's case that W devised the scheme and put it into effect. The co-accused gave evidence that they were wholly unaware the scheme was dishonest or intending to cheat the revenue. W denied doing anything dishonest. An application was made by the co-accused to amend the count of conspiracy to cheating the public revenue. W opposed the application as did the prosecution and the matter went before the jury as conspiracy. When summing up the judge directed the jury that they could convict one defendant of conspiracy even if there was no agreement between him and any other to commit the offence. W appealed conviction on the ground that the jury may have been misled by the summing up which was reflected by the fact they acquitted all the co-accused but convicted W. The prosecution relied on s.1(1) Criminal Law Act 1977 and contended that the direction given was justified, any agreement between the defendants simply had to be in relation to the facts.HELD: (1) It was unfortunate that the case went before the jury as a conspiracy given that the defences of the co-accused were that even if what W had done amounted to an attempt to cheat the public revenue they were unaware of that. (2) The offence in question was cheating the public revenue and that involved fraud. The concept of fraud was central to the agreement, s.1(1) of the 1977 Act did not seek to abstract from the concept of conspiracy the dishonesty. (3) It was clear that the direction was wrong in law because it could have misled the jury into concluding W was guilty where there was no relevant agreement which, supported conspiracy. The conviction was unsafe and would be quashed. No retrial would be ordered.Appeal allowed. Conviction quashed.