R v Halpin

JurisdictionEngland & Wales
Judgment Date26 March 1975
Judgment citation (vLex)[1975] EWCA Crim J0326-8
CourtCourt of Appeal (Criminal Division)
Docket NumberNo. 2760/C/74
Date26 March 1975

[1975] EWCA Crim J0326-8



Royal Courts of Justice


Lord Justice Geoffrey Lane

Mr. Justice Wien


Mr. Justice Stocker

No. 2760/C/74

John Francis Halpin

MR. B. ANNS, Q.C. and MR. J. GIBSON-WATTS appeared for the Appellant.

MR. E.M. HILL and MR. R.G. HAWKINS appeared for the Crown.


On the 18th July of last year at the Central Criminal Court, after a trial lasting some 32 working days, this Appellant was convicted of conspiracy to cheat and defraud and was sentenced to three years' imprisonment. He now appeals against that conviction by leave of the single Judge. The single Judge refused the application for leave to appeal against sentence. That application has lapsed but we did hear Mr. Anns on the question of sentence de bene esse.


The prosecution alleged that between March of 1969 and October of 1972 the Appellant who, at the lowest, was one of the leading lights of a company known as Pavings and Pipelines Ltd. (referred to hereafter as P & P) conspired with a man called Joseph Halvey who was an employee of P & P and also with a man called Jackson who was employed by the Brent Council, to cheat the Council by means of putting in bogus claims for paving work allegedly done in the borough by P & P.


Halvey was convicted on the conspiracy count and was sentenced to eighteen months' imprisonment suspended for two years. Jackson pleaded guilty to this count after some 5 days of the trial had gone by and was sentenced to eighteen months' imprisonment. There was another defendant by the name of Fowlie. He was Jackson's superior in the Council and was also charged with this conspiracy. He was acquitted.


The Crown adduced in evidence an extract from the returns kept in the company's register, the returns made by P & P Ltd. The admission of that evidence was the subject of an objection at the trial and forms part of the grounds of appeal in the present case and will have to be dealt with more fully at a later stage of this judgment. According to that extract, which was exhibit 166 in the trial, on the 31st March of 1968 the Appellant and his wife, Mrs. Halpin (not to be confused with the Appellant's sister-in-law who acted as secretary for P & P) became the sole directors of P & P Ltd. On the 8th July 1968 shares were transferred so that the Appellant owned something over 340 of the 350 shares, 348, and Mrs. Halpin, the wife, owned 2 shares.


However, according to this return, Mrs. Halpin resigned on the 7th November, 1971, and a man called Cagney was appointed. On the 27th November of 1971 there was an allotment of shares to Cagney and a man called Hall and to the Appellant. Whether or not the Appellant was in fact a director of P & P Ltd. there is no doubt that he was closely connected with the Council paving contracts.


The system of alloting contracts was as follows. The flag paved footways maintenance contract was put out for tender each year by the Council and the two lowest tendering contractors were awarded the contracts. One company did the Northern area of the borough and the other company did the Southern. From April of 1969 to the end of 1972 P & P held the contract for the North of the borough. It was not disputed that all the tenders of P & P Ltd. were signed by the Appellant either in his own name or in the name of Hannam. It is not quite clear why that alias was used but it does not seem to have had any sinister significance.


From September of 1968 until November of 1972 the defendant Jackson was the engineering assistant working for the borough of Brent and he was responsible for supervising the work of P & P Ltd. and Jackson, as has already been said, worked in his turn under the supervision of Fowlie. Jackson had a number of duties. One of them was to prepare what were called Tender Evaluation Schedules. Those, one gathers, were a synopsis of the contents of the various tenders put in by the contractors who wished to obtain the contract for paving in the borough. It was not disputed that the Evaluation Schedule for 1970-1971 was so arranged by Jackson as to show that P & P Ltd. had tendered at a lower price than its rivals and to ensure that, thereby, P & P secured the contract.


The Appellant further admitted that favours had been done for Jackson by P & P. Some building work to a chimney and some repairs and alterations to a bathroom and electrical work had been carried out at Jackson's house and no bills had been submitted for the cost of that work. A similar sort of arrangement was proved between P & P and a man called Biggs who had been Jackson's predecessor in the job at Brent. The work for Biggs had, in fact, been done before the date when the conspiracy was alleged to have started. The admission of that evidence in relation to Biggs is also the subject of one of the grounds of appeal.


The defendant Halvey joined P & P Ltd. some time in mid 1969. He, amongst other duties, was responsible for measuring the relaying work which had been completed by P & P and for submitting the invoices in relation to that work to the Brent Council. It seems that for the first two months he was with P & P he was introduced to the sites and taken round the various jobs by the Appellant.


There were two different types of work undertaken by P & P Ltd. for the Council. The first was total relaying work, in which a complete area would have the original pavement taken up and new pavement would be laid. The second type was patching, which is self-explanatory. Different rates of payment existed according to the type of work which was undertaken by the company.


Mrs. Halpin, the sister-in-law, who appeared to the Judge as being an honest witness, doing her best to give a true recollection of what happened while she was a secretary for P & P, gave valuable evidence first of all about the invoice system and also about the position which this Appellant occupied at the company. It seems that so far as the total relaying jobs were concerned these were ordered on behalf of the Council by Jackson. Jackson sent the orders through from the Council to the company. The 30b would then be done by P & P and the work measured and valued by Halvey, when he arrived on the scene, and Jackson working together. After that measuring had been done Halvey would prepare the invoices and they would then be typed by Mrs. Halpin, the sister-in-law. Following that Mrs. Halpin would send two copies of the invoice to Brent and the carbon copy and the manuscript draft, when one was extant, were filed at the company's office.


The patching system was different. The "patchers" were employed by P & P and they, as a rule, received orders direct from the Council. The patchers made out slips indicating how much patching work they had done. These were then copied out at the offices of the company and formed the bases of the invoices which were sent to the Council claiming payment for the area said to be patched.


Some 25 invoices or so were produced by the Crown and the details of those invoices were set out in a number of schedules which were put before the jury. The large majority of those invoices were in the handwriting of Halvey. There was, in fact, only one which could be identified as having been in the handwriting of this Appellant.


Matters came to a head in this way. Someone made a comparison between the invoices submitted by P & P and the invoices submitted by other contractors who were doing paving work in the other part of the borough. It became apparent that the invoices and the charges put forward by P & P differed startlingly from the others. An investigation was launched. A measuring team went out into the streets of Brent and after a little time it became obvious that the areas for which claims had been made by the company greatly exceeded the areas which had in fact been relaid or patched. As a result of that a much more extensive investigation was embarked upon. It was found that some 700 odd invoices had emerged from P & P during the period from 1968 to 1972. It was physically impossible to investigate the contents of all those invoices and accordingly a random sample was taken by Mr. Freshney in order to see whether they could discover where there were discrepancies in those samples. The number taken by Mr. Freshney for the investigation was 65 and from those 63 the prosecution extracted 25 as indicating that wild overcharging had been going on. There is no need for me to deal in detail with the number or extent of the cases in which overcharging had been made.


The situation at the trial was this. At the end of the prosecution case a submission was made by Mr. Anns on behalf of this Appellant that there was no sufficient case to go to the jury. That submission was overruled and there again that is a matter which is a subject of this appeal.


This Appellant was first on the indictment. Consequently the decision had then to be made as to whether he should give evidence or not and whether he could call witnesses. The decision was made that he should do neither.


Halvey did give evidence and, as may perhaps have been anticipated, Halvey in his evidence tended to cast blame in a fair measure upon the shoulders of the Appellant. He was in the witness box for no less than 5 days. One of the matters which he endeavoured to explain was why large quantities of new stone had appeared on invoices prepared by him when in fact nothing like that quantity of new stone had in fact been supplied to the borough or had been laid. He produced an explanation which, if one can understand it, as follows. There were a number of jobs done by the company, P & P, for the borough for which no proper rates, according...

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