Ed. Note-today we host a posting of UK Barrister James Vine.
First of all, contrary to what some “experts” have been blaring today, he was NOT sentenced to six years for Bribery. (which may come as some comfort to a few suits out there!)
On Count 1, an offence under the Bribery Act, he was sentenced to three years imprisonment. He had pleaded guilty, and was told that had he fought the case, the sentence would have been between four and five years. The maximum is ten years.
He also pleaded guilty to Count 2 a common law offence of Misconduct in a Public Office. He was sentenced to six years to be served concurrently with Count 1. The maximum is life imprisonment.
As the Judge said “… this indictment represents misconduct which lasted for well over a year and involved at least 53 cases in which you manipulated the process in order to save offenders from the consequences of their offending.”
The full transcript of sentencing remarks is here:
BUT…. and it’s a very big but, the sentence reflecting conduct lasting well over a year, can only have applied to Count 2, because Count 1 could only relate to bribes accepted after July 1st. In other words a comparatively small proportion of the time involved.
They ARE two separate offences. Accepting, or even asking for a bribe, is an offence in itself, even if he then did nothing.
What he did was to ask for and accept bribes, AND THEN go on to falsify the DVLA records by not entering details of motoring convictions which was his job. It could even be argued that he was lucky to have escaped a consecutive sentence.
What else? Well it is said that he was asking £500 a time to do this. 53 cases at £500 a time would mean about £26,000 in his back pocket. When police examined his bank accounts, (yes he paid the money into his bank….) they found credits of £96,000 unaccounted for. He earned about £25k per year.
So what does this all tell us?
On his own admission, to the court and on the secret video filmed by that bastion of rectitude, The Sun, he had been well at it for over a year.
The judge had this to say about the effect of his actions on the Judicial system: “By doing what you did, you created a danger not only to the integrity of the process but also to public confidence in it. A justice system in which officials are prepared to take bribes in order to allow offenders to escape the proper consequences of their offending is inherently corrupt and is one which deserves no public respect and which will attract none.”
This was far from a simple breach of trust, and cannot be judged in simple monetary terms against such cases.
SO…. if three years on a plea for a Bribery Act offence under Section 2 by a public servant is a guideline, then how much further up the scale will the suits have to crane their necks?
Only time will tell, but I leave you with two further thoughts.
IN the joint prosecution guidelines produced earlier this year by the SFO and the CPS (remember them?) they stated:
“The Act takes a robust approach to tackling commercial bribery, which is one of its principal objectives. The offences are not, however, limited to commercial bribery. There may be many examples outside the commercial sphere where individuals attempt to influence the application of rules, regulations and normal procedures. Examples would include attempts to influence decisions by local authorities, regulatory bodies or elected representatives on matters such as planning consent, school admission procedures or driving test”
So it isn’t just the suits who need to keep looking over their shoulders. The CPS are alive to lower level bribery too.
And finally, when can we expect to see 53 arrests and prosecutions for those who bribed Munir Patel?
James write and comments on the Bribery Act (among other topics) at thebungblog which he calls “A Lightheartedly Serious Look at the Bribery Act 2010.” This post originally appeared in thebungblog at