Court of Appeal Clarifies Interpretation of Fraud Act 2006 in David Ames v R Case

Citation: [2023] EWCA Crim 1463
Judgment on

Introduction

In the case of David Ames v R, the Court of Appeal (Criminal Division) addressed important legal principles surrounding the interpretation of the Fraud Act 2006, particularly section 4(1) which deals with the offence of fraud by abuse of position. The appellant, David Ames, challenged both his conviction and sentence, prompting the court to clarify the necessity of jury unanimity on the specific intentions required to convict under the Fraud Act and the appropriateness of consecutive sentences in cases of serious fraud.

Key Facts

David Ames was convicted of two counts of fraud by abuse of position related to the operations of Harlequin Management Services (South East) Ltd (HMSSE) and Harlequin Hotels and Resorts (Cayman) Ltd (HHR). He received a total of 12 years’ imprisonment and was disqualified from acting as a director for 15 years. The appellant appealed on the grounds that the jury was misdirected on certain ingredients of the offence and that the sentence was manifestly excessive, arguing improper imposition of consecutive sentences and insubstantial reductions for various mitigating factors.

Interpretation of Section 4(1) of the Fraud Act 2006

Central to the appeal was the interpretation of section 4(1)(c) of the Fraud Act 2006, which outlines the intent required to commit fraud by abuse of position. The appellant argued that subsections 4(1)(c)(i) and (ii) form separate legal ingredients of the offence, necessitating a Brown direction ([R v Brown (1984) 79 Cr App R 115]), requiring jury unanimity on at least one intention. The respondent and the court opined that the intention under section 4(1)(c) served as a single overarching ingredient, with subsections (i) and (ii) outlining different mechanisms through which intent can be determined.

Key decisions cited to support the court’s view included R v Smith (Owen), R v Dunleavy, R v Philips, and R v Chilvers. These cases distinguish essential ingredients of an offence from ancillary or evidential matters that do not require jury unanimity.

Totality and Consecutive Sentencing

On the issue of sentence, the court examined the Sentencing Council Definitive Guideline on Totality and the imposition of consecutive sentences. The guidelines permit consecutive sentences where unrelated facts or incidents occur or where the same kind of offence against different people would otherwise not reflect the overall criminality. However, it prohibits using consecutive sentences to evade statutory maximum penalties. The court found that the separate time periods, entities, and victims justified consecutive sentences.

Outcomes

The court upheld the convictions, dismissing the need for a Brown direction as the statutory intention in section 4(1)(c) is singular, encompassing any financial impact by way of gain or loss. Given that the appellant intentionally operated the business for personal gain, and that such intent inherently exposed investors to a risk of loss, the court found no misdirection by the trial judge or any resulting prejudice to the appellant.

The sentence appeal was also dismissed, with the court concluding that the total sentence of 12 years’ imprisonment was just and proportionate, reflecting the grave nature of the offences and the large financial losses amounting to more than £226 million incurred by investors.

Conclusion

The court’s ruling in David Ames v R provides clarity on the legislative intent of the Fraud Act 2006, specifically concerning the interpretation of intent under section 4(1)(c). The decision affirms that merely different methods by which a single statutory intent can be proven do not necessitate a separate jury directive, emphasizing the coherence and succinctness of the statutory offence construction. Furthermore, the judgement underscores the principles of totality in sentencing, affirming that consecutive sentences are permissible when reflecting the extent and complexity of criminality, particularly in high-value fraud cases. This ruling is a critical reference for legal professionals dealing with fraud offences and the nuances of jury directions in the UK.

Related Summaries