Antonelli v Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (1998) 1 All ER

Date01 March 1999
Published date01 March 1999
AuthorJason D. Haines
Subject MatterAccounting & finance
Journal of Financial Crime Vol. 7 No. 1 Financial Law
Antonelli v Secretary of State for Trade and Industry
(1998) 1 All ER
Jason D. Haines
Mr Samuel Antonelli, the appellant, was a property
agent, who accepted that he was conducting an
estate agent's business in the UK until 1985. Earlier
in his life he had worked in the realty business in
Detroit. There in the recorder's court he was convicted
in 1973 of the crime of burning real estate other than a
dwelling house between 1st and 8th December, 1971,
an offence contrary to Ch. 750, s. 73 of the Michigan
Criminal Law Act. On 12th June he was ordered to
serve between 2.5 and ten years' imprisonment for
that offence. He did not serve the sentence but left
for Israel and from there came to the UK. He did
not return to serve his sentence.
Under s. 3(1)(a)(I) of the Estate Agents Act 1979
the Director-General of Fair Trading may make an
order prohibiting a person from doing any estate
agent work if satisfied that that person had been
convicted of an offence involving fraud or other
dishonesty or violence. Acting under that power
the Director-General served notice on the appellant
stating that he proposed to make such an order
against him, describing his offence that time as one
of fraud or other dishonesty, on the ground that he
had been convicted of an offence involving violence
against property.
Appellant's claim
The appellant gave notice of appeal to the Secretary
of State on 18th October, 1991. His grounds of
appeal were:
(i) that the conviction relied on as grounds for the
order took place overseas in respect of an alleged
offence which occurred more than 20 years ago;
(ii) that he had been wrongly convicted of an alleged
offence with which he had never been charged
and which he had always denied and continued
to deny having committed.
The Secretary of State appointed three persons to
consider the appellant's appeal from the determina-
tion of the Director-General. The appellant was
found to be a person who was unfit to carry on
estate agency generally. They considered that the
conviction in Detroit fell within s. 3(1)(a)(I) of the
Act and that in view of this he was not a fit person
to carry on estate agency work under s. 3(2) of the
Act. The Secretary of State dismissed the appellant's
appeal, holding that the appellant's readiness to
commit violence against property meant there
would be a risk of detriment to the public if he
were to engage in estate agency work.
The appellant appealed to the High Court, con-
tending that the expression 'convicted of an offence'
in s. 3(1)(a)(I) of the Estate Agents Act 1979 did
not extend to a conviction before the commence-
ment of the Act or in a court outside the UK, and
that the offences of which he had been convicted
were not properly characterised as offences of
Buxton J rejected the appellant's contentions and
dismissed his appeal. In the course of his judgment,
he considered questions of law raised by the appel-
lant. The judge decided that the expression 'convicted
of an offence' did extend to a conviction before the
commencement of the Act. It had been argued that
he should construe the Act so that it did not have
retrospective effect, but the judge, after considering
the authorities to which he had been referred, rejected
the argument that to hold the Act was capable of
referring to conviction before the passing of the Act
was to give it retrospective effect. He said:
'The whole object of the 1979 Act was to introduce
limitations on estate agents that had not previously
existed at
... It seems that Parliament, having
decided that estate agents should, in future, be con-
trolled and having chosen as one important test of
their suitability that those who were convicted of
Page 73

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