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DEC
10

HMRC: More Prosecutions on the Way – by Siobhain Egan

Recent articles in the Financial Times and the Telegraph report that HMRC have increased their yield from investigations into avoidance and evasion by one third to a record £21 billion. Such has been their success that the Treasury has further ordered that they increase that figure by an additional £7 billion by 2014-15.

So how are they doing this, bearing in mind that they have had their budget reduced by 25% and there has been an exodus of senior staff?

Who are they currently targeting and what should you do if HMRC come a-calling?

The current economic crisis has seen a huge change in approach from HMRC e.g. they have specialist elite units targeting various sectors and the wealthy; in short their answer to the SAS!

They use data mining programmes; an analysis programme called Connect; informants (particularly ex-spouses, business partners, whistle-blowers), they have increased their payments to informants by 21%; close inter-governmental agency file sharing; massive increase in property inspections (both domestic and commercial), and much improved international co-operation.

They have announced that they are going to increase criminal prosecutions to 1,500 per annum; in 2011-12 they prosecuted 545 individuals and secured 413 convictions. So far they have focused upon doctors, lawyers, traders, restaurateurs, landlords and the building industry.

We are currently advising individuals facing tax & VAT criminal investigations and prosecutions.

They have also turned their attention to the holders of off-shore accounts in Switzerland (Swiss HSBC) and more recently Jersey. They did successfully secure a conviction against one individual who had an account in Switzerland and, if reports are true about the activities of some of the HSBC Jersey account holders, others will surely follow.

Nobody can afford to be complacent about the Revenue’s intentions. If you have undeclared monies in an offshore account, disclose as early as you can with the help of a specialist accountant, avail, where possible, of the LDF which has been extended to 2016.

Generally, self-reporting (disclosure) and the payments of financial penalties would mean that a criminal prosecution is unlikely to follow. HOWEVER that may NOT be the case if criminal activity, money laundering or other POCA offences are suspected.

We are currently advising a number of individuals with offshore accounts who are facing criminal investigations both in the UK and abroad. So check with specialist solicitors such as ourselves before disclosure to ensure that you are fully advised about potential criminal proceedings.

If you require any advice please contact Jeffrey Lewis or Siobhain Egan at our head office on 020 7387 2032 or find out more at lewisnedas.co.uk.

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DEC
06

New Sentences & Criminal Offences

A number of new criminal offences and sentences came into effect on 3 December 2012, as part of a wide range of provisions introduced in the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders (LASPO) Act 2012.

The provisions include:

  • ‘Two strikes’ – a mandatory life sentence for people convicted of a second very serious sexual or violent offence;
  • New Extended Determinate Sentence – a new sentence for dangerous criminals convicted of serious sexual and violent crimes, with no automatic release from prison halfway through their sentence. They will only be released when they have served at least two-thirds of their prison sentence and may be kept inside prison until the end of their term;
  • Knife possession – new offences to target those who use a bladed or pointed article or offensive weapon in a public place or school to threaten and cause immediate risk of serious physical harm to another. These offences will be subject to a maximum penalty of four years’ imprisonment. They will also carry a minimum six month prison sentence for adults or a four month Detention and Training Order for 16 – 17 year olds;
  • Dangerous driving – a new offence of causing serious injury by dangerous driving with a maximum sentence of five years in prison;
  • Tough new sentences for hate crime – there will be a starting point of 30 years in prison for people convicted of murder motivated by hatred or hostility towards disability or transgender people, up from 15 years. This will bring it in line with murders aggravated by race, religion and sexual orientation;
  • Tougher community sentences – an increase in the maximum length of a curfew requirement in a community sentence from six to 12 months, increasing the maximum period of time criminals can be subject to a curfew from 12 to 16 hours per day; and
  • Bail decisions – allowing prosecutors to challenge Crown Court bail decisions where there is serious risk of harm to a member of the public.

Contact our Criminal Lawyers in London

To arrange a consultation with our top criminal lawyers in London please contact Jeffrey Lewis or Siobhain Egan.

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2866 Hits
DEC
03

SAS Soldier Released on Appeal for Firearms Offence – by Laura Saunsbury

A fortnight ago I posted a blog about the case of soldier Sgt Nightingale, who was sentenced to 18 months military detention for illegal possession of a pistol which he had presented to him as a war trophy by Afghan soldiers while he was serving in Afghanistan.

Last Thursday his appeal against this sentence was heard by the Court of Appeal. I was delighted to learn that the appeal was successful; Sgt Nightingale was given a suspended sentence instead and so was released immediately.

I would be bound to agree that this is a fair and proportionate result since a suspended sentence is precisely what I observed was the appropriate penalty in my previous blog. Perhaps what is more interesting is just how widely this outcome was welcomed by the media and the general public.  

Sgt Nightingale is fortunate that his family had the wherewithal to generate and drive a campaign of public support for his cause. There are however many others who have fallen prey to Britain’s harsh firearms laws, often with no malicious act or intent, and quite inadvertently, yet whose cases have gone largely unnoticed by the media or general public.

Whilst the furore of media attention over Sgt Nightingale’s case won’t help those who have gone before him, hopefully it might have served to highlight the dangers of adopting such a simplistic and draconian approach as successive UK governments have chosen to do with the law on firearms.    
 
There is indeed something deeply and inherently unjust about combining mandatory minimum sentences with strict liability offences that require no criminal intent, or even knowledge that the act or omission is an offence. In my view, the court that has heard all the facts of the particular case should surely have complete discretion to determine the appropriate sentence in all the circumstances.

In the current economic climate, where many other things have far greater political priority, a root and branch review of the country’s firearms laws is almost certainly too much to hope for. But perhaps, there is room for a little optimism that this cause célèbre might at least lead to a gear shift in approach on the part of those involved in the administration of justice, and particularly the prosecuting authorities, who can be somewhat overzealous when it comes to any offence concerning firearms.

The tendency has been to adopt a very hard line, zero tolerance policy in all such cases, quite possibly on the assumption this would be universally supported by those in Government, the media and the general public. The case of Sgt Nightingale has demonstrated that the application of some discretion and sense of proportion in dealing with firearms offences, much as in other areas of criminal law, would in fact be widely welcomed.

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NOV
27

Confiscation Update: Third Parties – by Miles Herman

Third Parties’ interests often take a back seat when confiscation proceedings are ongoing and so a defendant’s partner, wife or husband’s interests may not always be advanced at an early stage and that may have serious implications in terms of any Orders the Court makes at the conclusion of proceedings.

Third parties often have beneficial interest in property and those beneficial interests ought to apply when calculating the recoverable amount in confiscation proceedings.

In the recent reported case of R v Harriet (Paula) (2012 EWCA Crim 2294), the Court was concerned with making an Order against the defendant and took into consideration her realizable assets which included her house. The Court made an Order on the basis she had full control over 25% of the equity in the matrimonial home, notwithstanding that she resided there with her husband and children and that the husband had contributed to payment of the mortgage on the property, although was not named on the mortgage deeds.

In this case it would seem documentation was not before the Court prior to making the Order and, on appeal, the Court quashed the original decision by the Crown Court Judge on the basis the appellant’s husband, here the third party, was legally entitled to his share of the property and that should have been accounted for when calculating the appellant’s equitable interest in the matrimonial home.

The issue that arises here is that third parties’ interests should be advanced at an early stage of proceedings and, had that happened in the present case, it is arguable whether the Court would have made the Order that it did prior to the appeal.

Third party interests need not only relate to property, but other assets jointly owned between the defendant and the third party, and therefore in a case where third party interests are relevant it is often necessary, and indeed desirable, that that third party seeks independent legal advice once confiscation proceedings are commenced, if not before.

Lewis Nedas Law have extensive experience in advising third parties in matters of this nature. Often, specialists in expert advice can alleviate the need for contested confiscation hearings at an early stage of proceedings where third party assets are advanced in a case.

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1727 Hits
NOV
19

Soldier Falls Prey to Strict Firearms Laws – by Laura Saunsbury

The case of Army Sergeant Nightingale, which has received wide coverage in the media over the past week, is the latest example, and a particularly stark one, of Britain's draconian firearms laws. Sentenced to 18 months detention by a Court Martial earlier this month for possession of a pistol, his wife has now written to the Prime Minister David Cameron appealing to him to intervene and direct her husband's release.

Sgt Nightingale had been deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq, and, as a qualified SAS sniper, there can be no doubt that he is familiar with a wide range of firearms, and has shown himself to be responsible and competent in their use and handling. However, following the arrest of his fellow serviceman with whom he shared Army quarters, a search was conducted of their accommodation. In the course of that search, a Glock pistol was discovered amongst Sgt Nightingale's belongings. It was accepted that he had intended to have the pistol deactivated and mounted to present it as a souvenir to his squadron, and that there were several very good reasons why he had not got around to doing so prior to its discovery by civilian Police.

In principle, the offence of possessing a pistol, which is classified as a prohibited firearm, carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 5 years imprisonment. However, the courts are empowered by law to impose a shorter sentence or even no custodial sentence at all in cases involving "exceptional circumstances". Sgt Nightingale's barrister had argued for a suspended sentence.

Through his military record, Sgt Nightingale has not only demonstrated great courage, and a far greater sense of duty to his country than most, but also that he was prepared if necessary to pay the ultimate price for his country, namely his life. Indeed two of his comrades did just that and he returned to Britain with their bodies to see them laid to rest. Subsequently, whilst taking part in an ultra-marathon event for charity to raise funds for wounded servicemen and women, Sgt Nightingale collapsed and suffered a serious brain injury, which has had a lasting impact on his memory.

In the circumstances, it is difficult to think of a more compelling case to show leniency and to find exceptional circumstances so as not to impose an immediate term of imprisonment. One might imagine the general public would agree that a suspended sentence would be a fair and proportionate penalty for Sgt Nightingale, given his loyal service to the country and the lack of any criminal intent. Surely, it would be far better to allow him to continue serving his country than to spend our taxes on incarcerating him?

Mandatory minimum sentences for certain firearms offences were introduced in a vain attempt to stem the tide of violent gun crime in Britain. The sentence imposed here highlights once again the inherent risk of injustice in adopting a one size fits all approach.

Sgt Nightingale's case will be debated in Parliament on Tuesday. Further developments will be watched with interest by our firearms law specialist, Laura Saunsbury.

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