Court Cases, News & what's on - Written by on Sunday, February 1, 2015 8:41 - 0 Comments

Opinion: Less time than Bernie got. But a long time is on the cards for UK white collar offenders.

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640px-BernardMadoff13 years for fraud sounds like a long time.  It is.  At the end of January some expressed surprise at the length of the sentence handed down to Magnus Weavering who was convicted of a large fraud.

The Independent newspaper reported:

“The length of the sentence … surprised many in the legal profession as it is so much higher than most recent cases. Former UBS trader Kweku Adoboli only received seven years for his rogue trading.”

Sentencing the judge said:

“You knew the risks that cheating entailed for investors …It was entirely foreseeable that investors would lose huge amounts. Sophisticated dishonesty on this scale calls for the maximum sentence possible.”

Jane de Lozey, SFO’s joint head of fraud, said:

“The length of sentence handed down reflects the damaging and extended nature of Mr Peterson’s crime. The loss to investors was vast and was compounded by the defendant’s continued deception as to the true health of their investments. That the SFO pursued this case demonstrates its determination to prosecute the top-most tier of complex economic crime. “

We on the other hand are not surprised at the length of the sentence.

For many years there has been disquiet at the length of sentences handed down to white collar criminals.  The financial crisis has changed all that.

In recent times the prosecutors toolkit has been slowly augmented.  New sentencing guidelines have been put in place and there is a clear indication from the courts that going forward white collar offenders could be looking at some serious time at Her Majesty’s pleasure in prison.

While the Weavering case is not a bribery case, the underlying rationale for longer prison sentences remains.  The public mood demands them, politicians keen to give the public what they want, have handed the courts with a toolkit capable of delivering them.

Sure, they may not be up to the 150 year maximum sentence meted out to Bernard Madoff – though at the end of the day that is an academic number it would mean that he would be getting out on his 201st birthday.

A 13 year sentence is long, even if subject to discounted and earlier release.  For UK PLC and those who amber gamble and lose in connection with bribery, expect a shorter  sentence than Bernie got – but that may be cold comfort.

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