Sunday, 29 January 2012

Harry Redknapp and Rosie 47

A bit of an unusual one from me here. I’m usually more interested in where businesses do bad things where the bad thing is tied up in the aims of the business. Personal gain tax evasion is a bit dull – it’s individuals looking out for themselves.
But get a top-flight football manager involved, and I’m all ears. Tottenham boss Harry Redknapp is currently on trial at Southward Crown Court facing two charges of cheating the public revenue, using an offshore account named for his dog and his year of birth.
My friend was asking me recently about what punishment Mr Redknapp faces. He (my friend) doesn’t want his club’s boss to go to jail. Ideally, said my friend, Redknapp would be found guilty, fined a huge amount of money, and that would be that. Why does he want him to be found guilty? Simple; that would rule him out of contention to be the next England manager (I’m not convinced it would!).
So what does the Crown have to prove, and what could Mr Redknapp face? Cheating the public revenue is a common law offence, a product of England’s long judicial history, and never enshrined in statute. Because of this, the elements of the offence (the bits the Crown has to prove) have taken some time to establish. An authoritative case, as far as I can make out, is Mavji  [1987] 1 W.L.R. 1388; where the offence said to consist of:
“fraudulent conduct by which money was diverted from the revenue and the revenue deprived of money to which it was entitled; that the offence could be committed by omission as well as by a positive act of deceit” (headnote)
It’s not a very user friendly definition, as it goes. And I’m not going to start trying to second guess the way the trial might go. As far as I can gather, Redknapp is essentially playing the daft wee laddie - any non-payment of tax was not done purposefully or fraudulently.
As to sentencing (if Mr Redknapp is guilty), the Crown Prosecution Service doesn’t have sentencing guidelines for cheating the public revenue. Indeed, in Mavji, the court held that similar statutory crimes’ maximum penalties don’t provide good guidance – a two year statutory maximum for a similar crime to Mr Majiv’s was deemed irrelevant as the Court of Appeal upheld a 6 year jail sentence for a cheat that cost the revenue at least £600,000. The sum in the Redknapp case doesn’t look to be anywhere near that, the BBC reporting that tax wasn’t paid on sums totalling about £189,000. And despite there being no guidance,  I would think that any judge would take into account similar aggravating and mitigating factors as applicable in other tax and fraud cases.
I think my friend’s hope may not be altogether unrealistic.

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