Jail terms for AIT directors cut on appeal

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The Independent Online

Carl Rigby and Gareth Bailey, the two former directors of the software company AIT who were jailed for market abuse in October, won their appeals to have their prison sentences reduced yesterday.

Rigby, the former chairman and chief executive of AIT, had his sentence slashed from three and a half years to 18 months, while the company's former finance director, Bailey, had his prison term cut from two years to nine months. Both will have to serve only half of their sentences if they maintain a record of good behaviour. The successful appeals mean Bailey couldbe released as soon as mid-February, while Rigby's release will follow in the summer.

Neither of the appellants appeared in the Court of Appeal yesterday. However, their friends and families shook hands and embraced each other as the verdicts were delivered.

Delivering his judgment, Mr Justice Field said he agreed with Judge Christopher Elwen, who oversaw the AIT trial, that the crime the appellants were convicted of was a "serious offence". However, he said he also agreed with arguments made by Bailey's representative Alex Cameron QC, the brother of the Conservative Party leader, that the sentences imposed on the pair were disproportionate compared with other similar cases.

Mr Justice Field said: "In our judgment, immediate custodial sentences on the appellants was inevitable. That said, we've come to the conclusion that the sentence passed by the judge was significantly higher than necessary. In our judgment the public would have been appropriately protected and the appellants appropriately punished if the sentence imposed on Bailey was nine months and that of Rigby was 18 months."

He added that Judge Elwen had not sufficiently taken account of mitigating circumstances when passing sentence, and the fact that neither has been convicted on a separate, more serious, charge of "knowingly" misleading the market.

He said he agreed with Mr Cameron's assertion that the prison sentence was only part of their punishment, acknowledging that the financial penalties imposed on the pair, as well as the stigma of the conviction, needed to be taken into account.

Rigby and Bailey were convicted of "recklessly" making a misleading statement to the market in May 2002, when they issued a Stock Exchange announcement which wrongly informed investors that the group was on target to meet its expectations for the full year. In fact, the statement relied on three contracts which had not yet been confirmed, and which eventually did not materialise.

Rigby was ordered to pay £840,000 in costs and compensation; Bailey was ordered to pay £142,000.