'Slickers' judge spares Hipwell from jail pending medical report

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The Independent Online

Anil Bhoyrul, the co-author of the Mirror's City Slickers column, avoided a prison sentence by pleading guilty to the charges in July last year. He was ordered to complete 180 hours of community service, while Terry Shepherd, a day trader found guilty of conspiring with the pair, was sentenced to three months in jail.

Delivering his verdict to Hipwell at St Albans Crown Court, Mr Justice Beatson, who oversaw the seven-week Slickers trial last year, said the crime of which he had been convicted was so serious "only a custodial sentence could be justified".

He said having received a last-minute e-mail from Hipwell's specialist - which warned his patient required urgent medical attention after suffering a sudden and serious deterioration in the state of his kidney - he would agree to hold back from sending Hipwell to jail immediately.

"In view of the latest report from your consultant, I'm going to adjourn consideration of this sentence, and will make a [final decision] in light of the [medical test] results," he said. "That report puts the matter in the balance."

Hipwell and Bhoyrul, along with Shepherd, were convicted of conspiring to use the City Slickers column to ramp the prices of shares between August 1999 and 2000. All three traded in stocks immediately before and after they were tipped in the Slickers column, often making a tidy profit.

Passing sentence on Bhoyrul, Mr Justice Beatson rejected calls from Bhoyrul's representative, Stephen Solley QC, to hand down only a fine to his client, saying he felt it was right that Bhoyrul was punished in a "constructive" manner. However, he made it clear Bhoyrul had only narrowly avoided a prison term, but told Hipwell: "But for your plea, only a custodial sentence could be justified."

At the end of the hearing, a relieved Bhoyrul hugged his solicitor, remarking: "That was a close one." In a statement, he added: "In July, I indicated a willingness to enter a plea of guilty on the basis that I fully accepted that by making a number of purchases and sales of shares and then tipping them in the Slickers column, I failed to disclose the conflict of interest with my role as a journalist. For that I apologise. The atmosphere, lack of leadership and moral responsibility while I was employed by the Mirror contributed significantly to these events. I now intend to put these proceedings behind me and move on."

The trio willbe subject to confiscation orders, to redeem the benefit they derived from their crime. Hipwell made a profit of £40,763 from his share dealing around the column, while Bhoyrul made £14,832. Terry Shepherd is alleged to have made £18,593 - a sum he is contesting. A separate hearing to decide how much the trio must pay will be held within weeks.