LAW REPORT: Guinness defendants' appeals dismissed

LAW REPORT v 28 November 1995

Regina v Saunders and others; Court of Appeal (Lord Taylor of Gosforth, Lord Chief Justice, Mr Justice Macpherson of Cluny, Mr Justice Potter); 27 November 1995

Department of Trade and Industry inspectors are allowed to continue their inquiries into a company's affairs under sections 432 and 442 of the Companies Act 1985 after it is clear that criminal offences have been committed provided that their interviews are conducted independently of the prosecuting authorities and in a fair and unobjectionable way.

The Court of Appeal (Criminal Division) dismissed appeals by Ernest Walter Saunders, Anthony Keith Parnes, Isidore Jack Lyons and Gerald Maurice Ronson, save for allowing Lyons's appeal on one count.

The four appellants were convicted in 1990 of offences arising from a share support scheme during Guinness plc's takeover of Distillers plc. In 1992 their cases were referred to the Court of Appeal on the ground that certain documents, relating to other bid situations in the City, had not been disclosed. The appellants also argued that: 1) interviews by DTI inspectors under the Companies Act 1985, in which the defendants were deprived of protection against self- incrimination, should have been excluded at their trial under section 78 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1985; and 2) having regard to the evidence between the appointment of the inspectors in November 1986 and the appellants' arrests in October 1987, the Companies Act procedure had been misused to allow the inspectors to be "evidence gatherers" for the prosecuting authorities and that the inspectors' inquiry should have given way to a police investigation by February 1987.

Jonathan Caplan QC and Justin Cole (Vernor Miles & Noble) for Saunders; Nicholas Purnell QC and Clare Montgomery (Peters & Peters) for Parnes; Anthony Scrivener QC and Mark Ellison (Stephenson Harwood) for Lyons; John Mathew QC and Ian Gatt (Mishcon de Reya) for Ronson; Sydney Kentridge QC, Elizabeth Gloster QC, Victor Temple QC and Richard Gillis (SFO) for the Crown.

Lord Taylor, CJ, giving the court's judgment, said that Parliament had, by part XIV of the Companies Act, overridden the principle of self- incrimination. The court's duty was to apply our domestic law which was unambiguous. It could not be right for a judge to exclude evidence of interviews simply on the ground that Parliament ought not to have countenanced the possibility of self-incrimination. The admission in evidence of answers which Parliament had said might be admitted could not be regarded as unfair per se under section 78 simply because of inherent features of the statutory regime under which they were obtained.

However, in considering whether the application of the statutory regime created any unfairness, a judge could have in mind that under that regime there was an obligation to answer the inspectors' questions on pain of sanctions.

Turning to whether there was a misuse of the Companies Act procedures, there was nothing improper in the holdings of meetings attended by the DPP, DTI and inspectors. In a complex affair, there needed to be some co-operation between the inspectors and the prosecuting authorities to evaluate the material unearthed. Parliament had provided for inspectors in the field of company fraud to operate under the regime of the Companies Act and for answers elicited to be admissible in criminal proceedings. It was not improper for the prosecuting authorities to permit that regime to take its course up to the point when they considered a police investigation should sensibly be started.

Having considered the evidence between November 1986 and October 1987 to allow the inspectors to continue their inquiry and to bring in the police only in May 1987 was a proper course subject to two essentials: 1) that the inspectors were left to conduct their inquiries and interviews independently without instruction, briefing or prompting by the prosecuting authority; 2) that the interviews were conducted fairly and unobjectionably.

Having seen all the documents there was no abuse of process or improper "collusion". There was nothing which rendered the admission of the inspectors' interviews unfair.

It was submitted that the undisclosed material went to the issue of dishonesty and showed that behaviour akin to that of the appellants occurred elsewhere in the City. Assuming the documents should have been disclosed, no prejudice was in fact suffered by any of the appellants by the non-disclosure.

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Geography Teacher

£85 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: We require a teacher of Geogr...

HR Assistant / Human Resources Assistant

£Neg + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: An HR Assistant / Human Resources Ass...

Talent Community Coordinator

£Neg + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: A Talent Community Coordinator is nee...

Business Support - Banking - Halifax - £250 pd

£150 - £250 per day: Orgtel: HR Analyst - Banking - HR - Halifax - £150 - £250...

Day In a Page

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride