Posted: 31 / 10 / 2019
Bartfields Forensic Accountants’ director David Winch recently spent 3 weeks on the holiday island of Jersey – but not for a holiday!
“Three weeks staring at a computer screen in Jersey is not much different to doing the same in the office,”
However, the end result was that the defendant, on whose behalf Bartfields had been instructed, was acquitted on all nine counts of ‘fraudulent conversion’ which she faced.
“My instructing solicitors said they couldn’t have done it without me, which was very kind of them,”
The defendant had run a company selling second-hand clothing to customers in Africa and Asia. Sadly the business failed and several customers, who had paid in advance for goods, obtained neither the goods they had ordered nor a refund.
Many of the complainants gave evidence by video link from far-flung places, without which the trial could not have been held. The defendant faced charges of ‘fraudulent conversion’ of the customers’ payments. This is an offence under Jersey law, but there is no precisely corresponding criminal offence in England.
“The Jersey law is similar to the law that applied in England before the English Theft Act of 1968,” said David. “I had to study some Jersey law and cases decided in the Jersey courts to understand exactly the nature of the charge the defendant was facing.”
A similar allegation in England would most likely have been dealt with by a charge under the Fraud Act 2006, or the Companies Act 2006 provision relating to fraudulent trading – but these Acts are not part of Jersey law.
“Ultimately the legal issue was whether the customers had ‘entrusted’ their payments to be used by the company only for the specific purpose of purchasing goods to be supplied to them, or whether the monies had become simply part of the general company monies to be used at the discretion of the directors. The court ruled that there had been no ‘entrustment’ and therefore the defendant had no case to answer on the charges of fraudulent conversion.”
Before reaching that conclusion the court had heard oral evidence from an accountant employed by the States of Jersey, who was required to address accountancy issues which the defence intended to raise if the trial had continued.
“Although in the event I was not required to go into the witness box, the points I planned to make in evidence were put before the Royal Court and the jury – so it was by no means a wasted journey to attend court.”
This is the second time David has attended the Royal Court in St Helier. Last year he gave evidence in the trial of a defendant facing money laundering charges – she also was acquitted.
“I’d better not go back,” laughed David, “I don’t want to lose my 100% record!”
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