R v Mills (Leslie)

JurisdictionEngland & Wales
Judgment Date13 June 1978
Judgment citation (vLex)[1978] EWCA Crim J0613-13
Docket NumberNo. 6322/B/77 No. 270/B/78
CourtCourt of Appeal (Criminal Division)
Date13 June 1978
Eric White
Robert Alfred Price
Leslie Ernest Mills

[1978] EWCA Crim J0613-13


Lord Justice Geoffrey Lane

Mr. Justice Milmo


Mr. Justice Cantley

No. 6322/B/77

No. 96/B/78

No. 270/B/78



Royal Courts of Justice

MR. W. RODDICK appeared on behalf of the Appellant White.

MR. D.G. MORGAN appeared on behalf of the Appellant Price.

MR. M. STEPHENS appeared on behalf of the Appellant Mills.

MR. ESYR LEWIS, Q.C. and MR. H. WILLIAMS appeared on behalf of the Crown.


On 3rd November last year at the Crown Court at Newport, the three appellants before the Court today, Eric White, Robert Alfred Price and Leslie Ernest Mills, were arraigned upon an indictment which contained 23 counts of corruption laid under section 1 of the Prevention of Corruption Act 1906. White pleaded guilty to three counts in that indictment and to another three counts contained in a second indictment. The appellant Mills, with whom we are dealing at present, was convicted of three counts of corruption, which were numbered in the first indictment 7, 9 and 10. The appellant Price was convicted of one count, count 14, on the original indictment. In due course they were sentenced to the following terms of imprisonment: White to eighteen months' imprisonment concurrent on each count; Mills to twelve months' imprisonment on each count of which he was convicted and he was ordered to pay £1,200 towards the costs of the prosecution; Price to two years' imprisonment, and he too was ordered to pay the sum of £1,200 towards the costs of the prosecution.


Mills appeals against conviction and sentence and it is with that appeal, which is by leave of the single Judge, that we propose to deal now.


The facts behind the case were briefly these. There was a company called Seward (Engineering) Ltd. That company was run by a man called Terry Seward-Jones: who was undoubtedly the eminence grise behind the corruption which was amply proved during the course of the trial. He was not within the jurisdiction of the Court at material times and indeed still remains outside that jurisdiction.


But what happened over the years – and it was a story which went over many years – was this. It was the policy of that engineering company to suborn the employees of the British Steel Corporation or that Corporation's predecessors in title, in such a way as to ensure that the large bulk of repair contracts issued by the Corporation found their way into the hands of Seward (Engineering) Ltd. That subornation was carried out in different ways. It is sufficient to say that there were gifts of cash made at regular intervals to some of the employees. There were, in particular in the case of Mills, expensive holidays paid for by the engineering company, by virtue of which the particular employee – Mills in this case – would be enabled to take his wife to such places as Madeira, Bermuda and so on at no expense to themselves but at the expense of the engineering company.


The allegation was that these gifts, whether in kind or in cash, were made in order, so it is said, to keep the employees of the Corporation "sweet" and in a frame of mind which would ensure, so far as possible, the company getting the bulk of the work from the Corporation: a very valuable asset, if they could lay their hands on it.


So far as the appellant Mills is concerned, the allegation against him was that he had corruptly accepted from the company as inducement in October 1970 a holiday in Madeira at a cost of some £345, a holiday in March 1971 in Jersey at a cost of about £122 and a holiday in December 1972 in Bermuda at a cost of £575.


At the time of these offences Mills was undoubtedly a highly qualified draughtsman, and held the position of Head of New Work at the British Steel Corporation and he was in that capacity a man who was in a position to influence the destination of contracts which were issuing from the Corporation's premises.


The defence put forward by Mills was this: true that he had accepted these various holidays. There was no dispute about that. But the reason for accepting them was not, according to him, as a reward for past favours, or as an inducement to bestow future favours, but it was in respect of work which he had done on a consultancy basis, working as a freelance draughtsman for Mr. Terry Seward-Jones. Indeed there was very little conversation between the two of them as to what precisely was the reason for the various acts of generosity but on one occasion very many years before apparently Terry Seward-Jones had said to him "you won't be any the worse off for what you are doing" or words to that effect.


Consequently the issue which the jury had to decide was a very simple one. First of all this situation was covered by the provisions of the 1916 Act, which casts the burden of proof upon the defendant to show that the inducements were not corrupt. Secondly, the only evidence which the defendant gave in an attempt to discharge that burden of proof was, according to his version, that the gifts were nothing to do with bribes, they were simply a reward for past perfectly legitimate work done by him for Terry Seward-Jones.


The jury rejected that version of events. Accordingly, it seems to this Court, that that is the end of the matter, for the simple reason that if no reason was given by the defendant which the jury could accept as to why these admitted gifts had been received, he, the defendant, had quite plainly failed to discharge the burden of proof which the 1916 Act applies.


But it is said that there was a second leg to the defence and it is said that upon that second leg the learned Judge gave a direction to the jury which was not in accordance with the true law. The matter was the subject of some observations by the learned Judge. Let me read the passage:


"If I were to apply a text to my observations with regard to the case for the Defence and the Prosecution, as far as Mr. Mills is concerned, I would adopt his own words in evidence, What he said was this: 'If I had not been doing consultancy work, I would have accepted nothing. It would obviously be wrong to do so.' You can say in a nutshell, that if the charges are not referable to consultancy work that he did, he is guilty. That is what it means, does it not? The existence or not of consultancy work, the relationship between the consultancy work and the holidays that he was given, is a vital factor when you come to consider the case for Mr. Mills and against Mr. Mills.


"Now the case for the Defence is really quite simple. They say: 'It is true that the gifts of holidays were given by Seward's and accepted by Mr. Mills. Whether or not Seward's may have been corrupt in other transactions, here nèither the giving nor the acceptance of the gifts was corrupt. The holidays were given for consultancy work which the Defendant did in his private time and there can be no objection to that'. That is really the first limb of the Defence. But the Defence goes further and says this: 'Even if Seward's did have a corrupt motive in giving them, Mr. Mills was certainly not corrupt in accepting and Mr. Goldblatt, you remember, dwelt on this at some length. In saying that, I hope I am not implying any criticism at all." He then deals with certain illustrations, and then continues: "Members of the jury, the basic point of that, as I understand it, was this. Two people can have two entirely different intentions so far as one transaction is concerned. The giver may be corrupt, but the acceptor need not necessarily be. That is the basis of the illustration. Again, one person can be corrupt and another innocent but, knowing the other's intention, nevertheless accepts the gift."


At page 102G he comes to the material part of the direction about which complaint is made. It runs as follows: "If, in the knowledge that a gift is being offered corruptly as a bribe, that it is being offered to an employee to show favour to the person who bribes when he deals with his employer's affairs or business, an employee accepts it, he is guilty of a corrupt act. That is the law. When you consider Mr. Goldblatt perfectly valid point that two people may have entirely different intentions when they have a deal over a certain matter, and one may be corrupt, but the other innocent, remember that it is a perfectly valid point, but to carry it any further would be quite wrong."


That direction of law is of course based upon the supposition that there was evidence to support the defence version of the case upon which that proposition of law must be based, and in order to make that proposition of law come into effect at all, it would have been necessary for there to be some evidence from the defendant that he had accepted the gift knowing it to be tendered as a bribe but that he nevertheless did not intend to act in accordance with that bribe. In other words that he intended, as has been said in an earlier case, to "double-crose" the donor.


It seems to us that there was a total absence of any foundation of evidence for that defence, for reasons which I have already expressed. Consequently, strictly speaking, it does not fall to our lot to decide whether or not the learned Judge's direction would have been correct had there been a basis of fact on which it could operate.


Realising what we say is obiter, nevertheless we feel it right to say that in our judgment it is enough that the recipient takes the gift knowing that it is intended as a bribe. By accepting it as a bribe and intending to keep it he enters into a bargain, despite the fact that he may make to himself a mental reservation to the effect that he is...

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    ...one count inevitably involves a finding that the defendant has committed other offences for which he may therefore be properly sentenced. R v Mills (1979) 68 Cr App R 154 is relied on as such a case. One of the appellants in that case ( Price) was convicted on a single count of corruptly ac......
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