15 July 2022, ROYAL COURTS OF JUSTICE, LONDON – The Court of Appeal today upheld the conviction and seven-month custodial sentence of a defendant to a private prosecution following his conviction in contempt proceedings for four breaches of a restraint order at Birmingham Crown Court earlier this year.
The private prosecutors were represented by Addleshaw Goddard's private prosecution team, and Kennedy Talbot QC of 33 Chancery Lane.
The defendant, one of seven charged with 25 separate offences of fraud and money laundering in relation to a cross-border investment scheme with alleged victims in at least four countries, was convicted of four breaches of a restraint order made in June 2021 for opening and operating a bank account and failing to disclose information. HHJ Rochford, the sentencing judge, found that the breaches were "flagrant and deliberate" and that the defendant was an "unreliable witness".
The matter is set down for trial in March 2024, with the private prosecutors represented by Addleshaw Goddard and Rebecca Chalkley of Red Lion Chambers. Mr Talbot QC acts for the private prosecutors in relation to restraint and confiscation. Separate civil proceedings are also under way in Germany.
The defendant appealed against the length of the custodial sentence handed down for the contempt. Lady Justice Carr, Mr Justice Fraser and Sir Nigel Davis sitting at the Court of Appeal, Criminal Division on 15 July 2022 unanimously dismissed the appeal on each ground. Mr Justice Fraser said that the sentences were not "manifestly excessive or wrong in principle nor is it arguable that they should be suspended."
He said: "The purpose of sentence is to uphold the authority of the court and to encourage those subject to the order to comply with them. […] Those subject to orders must comply with orders, and the penal notice makes it clear. That warning is set out in black and white front and centre on page 1 of the order. There can be no reason to disobey the order and if [defendants] do disobey the orders a custodial sentence can be expected."
The court also rejected the defence submission that any different approach should be taken to sentencing for contempt of court in circumstances where the criminal case is brought by a private prosecutor, saying "It appears to be argued that there ought to be a different approach required because this is a private prosecution. […] we do not accept there is any different principle. […] the fact proceedings are brought as a private prosecution is not relevant."
Polly Sprenger, a Partner in the Global Investigations team of Addleshaw Goddard, said:
"The Court of Appeal has today reaffirmed the important public interest served by private prosecutors, and reinforced that these criminal proceedings are to be treated as no less serious than those brought by public prosecutors. In circumstances where defendants choose to ignore or evade orders made by civil or criminal judges, custodial penalties can and will be upheld by the senior courts."
Addleshaw Goddard's six-strong Private Prosecution practice is one of the largest in this specialist field, advising clients seeking criminal investigation and prosecution where law enforcement can't or won't assist. The team brings and defends private prosecutions, as well as liaises with law enforcement in the first instance to push for public assistance. The team helps clients navigate the whole process from advice and investigation through to criminal and/or civil proceedings and any asset tracing, confiscation and enforcement.