Court of Appeal Upholds Conviction and Sentence in R v Michael Stainer, Emphasizing Strict Standards for Financial Conduct and Fraud Appeals

Citation: [2023] EWCA Crim 1656
Judgment on


The recent case of R v Michael Stainer (2023) EWCA Crim 1656 provides a poignant illustration of the principles of criminal law as they relate to fraud and the responsibilities of company directors concerning financial conduct. Delivered by the Court of Appeal, the judgment in this case reinforces the legal obligations for honest transactions and dealings with Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC), alongside addressing issues regarding the appeal process. The case also touches upon the sentencing guidelines associated with revenue fraud and the application of the Fraud Act 2006.

Key Facts

The defendant, Michael Stainer, was convicted of two counts of cheating the Public Revenue contrary to common law and one count of fraud by false representation under the Fraud Act 2006. The charges stemmed from Stainer’s failure to remit income tax and National Insurance contributions for two companies he managed. Despite deductions made from employee wages, these were not accounted for to HMRC.

The defendant appealed both his conviction and sentence, attempting to introduce new evidence that he claimed would demonstrate misconduct by HMRC and cast doubt on his convictions. He also contended the bankruptcy proceedings against him had undermined his ability to settle tax liabilities and questioned the fairness of the trial process and summing-up by the trial judge.

The case analysis is grounded in the principles that govern criminal fraud, the duty of disclosure, and the standards for granting an appeal. The judgment addressed the following legal principles:

  1. The test for safe convictions - The appeal focused on whether the convictions were safe, considering the evidence and the trial process. The court also considered the application for fresh evidence under the guidelines set in the Criminal Appeal Act 1968 and the Criminal Procedure Rules.

  2. Fraud by false representation - Under Section 1 of the Fraud Act 2006, the Court examined whether Stainer’s actions misrepresented financial accountability to HMRC and his employees.

  3. The duty of disclosure - Analysis of whether the prosecution withheld pertinent evidence was key, with the Court confirming the need for disclosure to be full and fair.

  4. Admissibility of fresh evidence on appeal - Consideration of whether the evidence Stainer wished to introduce met the necessary criteria for fresh evidence on appeal, particularly its relevance and potential impact on the original conviction.

  5. Sentencing guidelines - The judgment examined the sentencing decision through the lens of the guidelines applicable to revenue fraud cases, assessing factors like culpability, harm, and mitigating circumstances.

  6. The principle of manifestly excessive sentencing - The Court addressed the claim that the sentence was manifestly excessive or wrong in principle.


The Court firmly dismissed the appeal against conviction, refusing both an extension of time and leave to introduce fresh evidence. The appeals on the grounds of nondisclosure by the prosecution and alleged procedural errors during the jury’s deliberations were viewed as without merit. The Court found the summing-up to have been fair and adequately summarized the applicant’s defense.

In regard to the appeal against sentence, the Court held that the sentencing judge had correctly categorized the levels of culpability and harm, considered mitigating factors, and applied the relevant sentencing guidelines. The appeal against sentence was also unequivocally refused, with the Court finding no basis to argue that the sentence was either wrong in principle or manifestly excessive.


The Court of Appeal’s decision in R v Michael Stainer reaffirms the strict expectations placed upon individuals in control of company finances, particularly regarding the accuracy and honesty of financial representations made to employees and HMRC. It demonstrates the high evidentiary bar that must be met to succeed in an appeal against conviction for fraud before the Court. Furthermore, the judgment illustrates the application of sentencing guidelines, affirming the appropriateness of the sentences handed down by the trial judge given the nature and seriousness of the offences. The decision serves as a cautionary reminder of the heavy consequences of fraudulent business practices and underscores the rigorous approach taken by the appellate courts in upholding convictions and sentences in fraud cases.