What factors did the judge take into account in sentencing?
At the time of writing, Judge Beddoe’s sentencing comments are not a matter of public record. However excerpts are available widely in the press, and it appears that the impact the crimes had on victims was a particularly important aggravating factor.
According to the CPS press release, the businesses affected by the defendants’ actions suffered gravely, which in turn led to job losses, financial hardship, marital breakdowns and serious ill-health in some cases.
Judge Beddoe described Mr Scourfield as an ‘utterly corrupt bank manager’, whose scheme left hundreds of small business owners ‘cheated, defeated and penniless’. The defendants’ lavish lifestyles were also subject to close scrutiny, with Judge Beddoe adding in his sentencing remarks to Mr Scourfield, ‘… you sold your soul, for sex, for luxury trips with and without your wife—for bling and for swag’.
These factors were reflected in a combined figure for sentence of 47 and a-half-years—eleven years and three years for Mr Scourfield, 15 years for Mr Mills, ten years for Mr Bancroft, three-and-a-half years for Mr Cartright, four-and-half-years for Mr Dobson. Ms Mills was sentenced to three-and-a half years.
What strikes you as interesting about the sentences imposed?
The sentences handed down by Judge Beddoe are certainly lengthy. This is perhaps unsurprising, given that the offences committed carry significant maximum terms of imprisonment.
The offence of conspiracy to corrupt (pursuant to section 1 of the Criminal Law Act 1977 and sections 1–2 of the Bribery Act 2010 (BA 2010), respectively) carries with it a maximum custodial sentence of ten years’ imprisonment. The offence of fraudulent trading (contrary to section 458 of the Companies Act 1985 and section 993 of the Companies Act 2006 (CA 2006)) also carries with it a maximum custodial sentence of ten years’ imprisonment. A conviction of conspiracy to launder money (contrary to sections 327, 328 and 329 of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (POCA 2002)) carries a maximum term of imprisonment of 14 years. The offence of conspiracy to conceal property (contrary to POCA 2002, s 327), of which Mr and Ms Mills and Mr Bancroft were all separately convicted, carries a maximum custodial sentence of 14 years’ imprisonment.
Financial crime often triggers a number of statutory and common law offences, and sentences are handed down for multiple indictments, as indeed occurred in the HBOS case. The length of the sentences imposed in this case appear to be consistent with the general clampdown on financial crime in the banking sector.
What learning points do you think corporate crime practitioners can take from this case, in particular in terms of advising clients on historic allegations of corruption?
These convictions are a strong reminder that historic allegations of corruption, some of which may pre-date the entry into force of BA 2010 (which was 1 July 2011) and the present CA 2006 (which was introduced in stages, with its final provisions commencing on 1 October 2009) are not beyond the reach of investigative and prosecutorial bodies in England and Wales. It is therefore important that corporate crime practitioners remain familiar not only with current statute and common law in the field of financial crime but with those provisions which are either of direct or interpretative retrospective effect. Given the current climate of uncertainty for banks and businesses, and the continually emerging consequences of the 2008 financial crash, this is likely to hold true for the foreseeable future.
Interviewed by Alex Heshmaty.
The views expressed by our Legal Analysis interviewees are not necessarily those of the proprietor.