Bribery clerk's sentence reduced

 

A court clerk who made legal history when he became the first person to be jailed under new bribery legislation won a two-year cut in his sentence today.

Munir Patel, 22, of Green Lane, Dagenham, east London, was originally handed a three-year prison term for bribery and ordered to serve six years concurrently for misconduct in a public office - making an overall sentence of six years.

At the Court of Appeal in London today the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge, sitting with two other judges, ruled that the total of six years, imposed in November on a young man of previous good character who pleaded guilty at the first available opportunity, was "excessive".

Lord Judge announced: "In our judgment the appropriate sentence for this criminal activity remains a substantial sentence, but the sentence should be reduced from six to four years."

London's Southwark Crown Court heard last year that Patel, who worked at Redbridge Magistrates' Court in east London, used his privileged access to the court system to help more than 50 offenders avoid prosecution relating to driving offences in exchange for sums of up to £500.

He became the first person to be prosecuted and convicted under the Bribery Act 2010.

The reduction in sentence was achieved by cutting Patel's original six-year term for misconduct in a public office to four years.

Lord Judge said: "The appellant abused his position as a court clerk to pervert the course of justice by taking bribes from those who had committed motoring offences and enabled them to escape the proper consequences for what they had done.

"It is clear from the evidence that he solicited the bribes and clear too that he started on this process very soon after he started work at the magistrates' court."

He said it was also clear that in order to "induce or persuade" people to give him bribes, Patel told them that if they came before the magistrates "they would be prejudiced against them on racist grounds".

Lord Judge said: "He acted on his initiative and enjoyed all the profits.

"There is no doubt these were serious offences and the public is entitled to rely on the integrity of anyone who is involved in the administration of justice, whether as a judge or magistrate or a court official."

He added: "All are expected to be incorruptible. That confident expectation was tarnished by these criminal activities."

Patel was guilty of a "systematic and prolonged breach of trust".

Lord Judge said: "As a result, some drivers who should have been disqualified just because they would have exceeded the relevant points total avoided disqualification, and others avoided fines and penalty points which they would have justly incurred."

Each incident represented a deliberate perversion of the course of justice by an official of the court system.

Lord Judge said: "A very substantial sentence was an appropriate sentence to be imposed on the appellant. That said, we have come to the conclusion that the sentence which was actually imposed ... was an excessive sentence.

"The question for us is whether a six-year total sentence on a young man of good character who pleaded guilty at the first available opportunity was excessive.

"We have come to the conclusion that it was."

PA

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