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.
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.
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.