Full case report

Majeed & Westfield v R

Reference [2012] EWCA Crim 1186
Court Court of Appeal

Judge Lord Judge CJ, Openshaw, Irwin JJ

Date of Judgment 31 May 2012


Summary

Sport – cricket – betting – spot fixing – criminal proceedings – conspiracy – corruption – bribery – cheating at gambling – conduct contrary to ‘affairs’ of employer – rulings by trial judge – pleas of guilty – appeals against conviction – appeals dismissed


Facts

The appellants were prosecuted and convicted in unrelated proceedings arising from alleged criminal activity involving ‘spot fixing’.  Each pleaded guilty following rulings by the trial judge on the ambit and effect of the charges he faced, and then appealed contending that the trial judge’s rulings were wrong.

M was an agent for various players of the Pakistan national cricket team. The proceedings against him followed a well-publicised undercover operation by the News of the World. M was convicted on two counts. The first alleged that he conspired to give corrupt payments to 3 such players as a reward for ‘doing acts in relation to the affairs of their employer, the Pakistan Cricket Board’. The acts were to identify in advance occasions when they would play in a specific, previously agreed, manner. The charge involved a conspiracy to act contrary to s 1 of the Prevention of Corruption Act 1906. The second charge alleged conspiracy to enable others to cheat at gambling, contrary to s 42 of the Gambling Act 2005, by passing to those others the information obtained from the players.

W was an employee of Essex County Cricket Club, and pleaded guilty to accepting or obtaining corrupt payments, contrary to s 1 of the 1906 Act, for bowling in Natwest Pro 40 match in a way calculated and intended to allow the scoring of runs. A second count, of assisting another to cheat at gambling contrary to s 42 of the 2005 Act, was not pursued. He was offered and accepted £6,000 deliberately to concede more than 12 runs off his first over in that match.

M and W each contended that a vital element of the charges against them could not be proved because their conduct was not “aimed at” the PCB or the ECCC. In support of that argument they cited the Privy Council decision in Commissioner of the Independent Commission against Corruption v Ch’ng Poh [1977] 1 WLR 1175.

M contended in addition that the Gambling Act conspiracy charge against him could not be made out because the gambling which occurred or may have occurred as a result of his conduct had taken place abroad, with the consequence that the English court had no jurisdiction to try him for the offence.


Issue

(1) Was it fatal to the charges under the 1906 Act that the appellants’ conduct was not ‘aimed at’ the employers of the cricketers concerned?

(2) Was it fatal to to the charge against M of conspiracy to cheat at gambling under the 2005 Act that any gambling that flowed from M’s conduct in passing to others the information he got from the Pakistan team members took place abroad?


Held

Answering both questions in the negative,

(1)  The decision in Ch’ng Poh lent no support to the appellants’ “aimed at” argument. The appellants’ conduct was ‘in relation to the affairs’ of the PDB and ECCC respectively. The terms of the contracts in each case made clear that the proper conduct of the sport by the players was integral to the employer’s affairs and business. The actions of the cricketers fell fairly and squarely within the ambit of the 1906 Act and the relevant counts were clearly established.

(2) The “gambling abroad” submission was remarkable. The s 42 offence was committed at the moment when “anything” was done “for the purpose of enabling or assisting” someone else to cheat at gambling. In these cases the offence was complete before any bet was placed, and the acts that constituted the offence were performed in England.

Obiter Interesting questions might arise if a person living abroad were ever prosecuted here for gambling abroad on the basis of cheating organised and carried out here, but “we are not dealing with the criminals abroad who took advantage of the cheating organised in this jurisdiction. We are dealing with the criminals who participated in it here.”


Comment

Although the 1906 Act has been repealed and replaced by the Bribery Act 2010, the Court of Appeal’s conclusions are of more than just historic interest. There remains the real possibility of future prosecutions under the 1906 Act arising from the ‘phone-hacking’ investigation.

It is of interest to the regulators of both gambling and sport to note that the charge against M based on s 42 of the Gambling Act survived appellate scrutiny. The section was not in force at the time of R v Rodgers & Others, the horseracing case which was the last high-profile prosecution alleging fixing of sports events. The section has been little-used in the 7 years since it came into force.


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