Judge's ruling may keep Heseltine's name out of tax trial

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LAWYERS from the Crown Prosecution Service are expected to seek a ruling this week which will prevent mention of the name of Michael Heseltine, the Deputy Prime Minister, and other high-ranking individuals, in the forthcoming criminal trial of a tax inspector.

Mr Heseltine's name is on a list of substantial taxpayers which was due to be scrutinised by Michael Allcock, former head of the Inland Revenue's investigative unit, Special Office 2. Mr Allcock faces trial on corruption charges next week. There is no suggestion whatsoever of any impropriety or irregularity on Mr Heseltine's part.

Mr Allcock's lawyers want the list included in the trial to show the senior level at which their client was operating, but the CPS will seek a ruling from the judge, Mr Justice Beaumont, that individual taxpayers' names should not be mentioned in the proceedings, and that a wide range of other Inland Revenue documentation should be excluded.

In a highly successful career, Mr Allcock, 47, was credited with retrieving more than pounds 100m of lost revenue. His methods included doing deals with wealthy foreigners who used Britain as a base but paid no tax. Suspended in 1992, he was charged with corruption, with two others, in 1994. Michael Jones, Mr Allcock's solicitor, said he could not give details of his client's case, but he confirmed that the defence will seek to challenge the CPS over the proposed restrictions.

Concern has been expressed about the possible withholding of documents from the Allcock case by the Government.

In a Commons written question published before the summer recess, Stephen Byers MP, a Labour Treasury spokesman, asked the Attorney-General, Sir Nicholas Lyell, "what steps he has taken to deny the disclosure of documents or part of documents to the defence in the case of the Crown v Michael Allcock presently being conducted by the Crown Prosecution Service; how many documents or parts of documents are not being disclosed; what powers are being exercised to deny information to the defence?"

Mr Byers is concerned that the Government may attempt to use public interest immunity certificates, heavily criticised in the Scott report. His questions appeared on the Commons Order Paper for just one day before they were removed by the Commons authorities because, it was said, the matter was sub judice.