How the law entangles us

A judge has sentenced a businessman at the centre of a fraud case to 3½ years in jail despite admitting the existence of fresh evidence that casts doubt on the safety of his conviction.

Oh aye, so what happened?

Bowles was convicted by a jury in June of cheating the Revenue of £1.2 million in VAT but sentencing had been adjourned on three previous occasions. He had been found guilty of failing to pay VAT on a BIG land sale and diverting money due to the taxman to prop up Airfreight Express, his ailing air-freight company.

Tsk, naughty. So what are the doubts?

Nevertheless, when the Revenue began a criminal investigation into his affairs in 2006 all his assets were frozen under the powers of the Proceeds of Crime Act.

Sorry?

Bowles was required to live on an allowance and rely on legal aid for his defence rather than pay out of his own resources. Defence lawyers claimed that preparation of Bowles’s defence case was hampered further because his companies’ financial records were in the hands of administrators.

The accounts were not disclosed until a court hearing in February this year, at which point Bowles sought permission to have a forensic accountant examine them to determine the VAT position. He was refused a relaxation of the restraint order to pay for a forensic accountants’ report. The Legal Services Commission also declined to fund such a report from legal aid.

After the court was told that the records “could be considered by counsel with a calculator” the trial went ahead. Bowles was cleared of two charges but found guilty of a third. A financial report has since been prepared, free of charge, by a firm of chartered accountants. A draft copy was presented to the judge two months ago and a full version handed to him this week. Its analysis concludes that rather than owing tax, Bowles’s companies had actually overpaid their taxes.

You what?

He\’s denied the use of his own resources to mount his defence? Seriously?

I\’m (re) reading Gulag Archipelago at the moment and am in the bit where he talks about how the trial/investigation system worked. You had to prove that you were innocent but had no access to any papers or documents, not even to legal counsel or expert advice in your attempts to do so.

No, of course we\’re not on the cusp of creating a Gulag…..but someone seems to have been reading the Soviet legal code as an instruction manual.

7 comments on “How the law entangles us

  1. Deprivation of resources as a way of denying the accused of an effective defence is a ploy now being used regularly by the authorities. Ironically, this is one of the reasons why historically people from less democratic jurisidictions continue to park assets offshore.

    And asking a lawyer to do the numbers is about as sensible as asking a bloke in a wheelchair to take the lead in Swan Lake.

  2. “we’re not on the cusp of creating a Gulag”

    Really? Because it’s starting to sound as though we are.

  3. Quite so, Ian. I hadn’t got to the point where Tim mentioned Gulag before the word came into my mind.

    A disgraceful verdict. I hope it goes to appeal.

    Or do I? Maybe the Appeal Court will add a spell in the salt mines.

  4. The entire operation of the Proceeds of Crime Act is, to say the least, grossly suspect. I recall a case (Not this one) where a businessman was found not guilty of any crime, but his assets were siezed under that act. How can they be the proceeds of crime if no crime has been proven?

  5. Another example of what you get when politicans massage their own egos by passing populist legislation through a compliant/incompetent parliament and justify it on the basis that “if you’ve nothing to fear”.

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