High Court Upholds Decision on Procedural Fairness and Corporate Representation in Criminal Proceedings

Citation: [2023] EWHC 3190 (Admin)
Judgment on


In the case of Lehram Capital Investments Ltd v Southwark Crown Court & Anor [2023] EWHC 3190 (Admin), the High Court of Justice dealt with several pivotal issues primarily concerning procedural fairness, representation of corporate entities in criminal proceedings, and the legitimacy of video link use during an appeal. The intricate weave of factual background, coupled with legal intricacies, required a meticulous examination by Mr Justice Julian Knowles, who provided a comprehensive judgment drawing upon various legal principles and established case law.

Key Facts

Lehram Capital Investments Ltd, an English registered company, engaged in a private prosecution led by Cyrith Holdings Limited, a Cypriot company, concerning alleged fraudulent representations to Companies House regarding Lehram’s dormant status. Upon conviction and sentence, Lehram appealed to the Southwark Crown Court, which dismissed the appeal, resulting in Lehram seeking judicial review on the grounds of fairness and legitimacy of the appeal process.

Key issues before the High Court included the Crown Court’s refusal to adjourn the appeal hearing and to permit Lehram’s representation, particularly Maria Sokolova, via video link, to participate in the proceedings. Lehram’s underlying contention was that such refusal resulted in procedural unfairness and presented an appearance of bias against the company.

A crux of the judgment hinged on the Criminal Procedure Rules and the proper representation of corporate entities in criminal proceedings. Rule 46.1 dictates the requirements for corporate representation, and the principle of ‘duly appointed’ representation as described in Section 33 of the Criminal Justice Act 1925 and Schedule 3 to the Magistrates’ Courts Act 1980 is crucial. Corporations must issue a transparent written statement specifying the representative’s appointed role, the appointee’s authority, and the declarer’s corporate position.

Mr Justice Julian Knowles referenced key case law, including R v Croydon Crown Court ex parte Clair, elucidating principles surrounding adjournment and emphasizing that fairness must be considered within the entirety of the case. Regarding live links, the court referred to R v Kadir and the amended Section 51 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003, emphasizing the intricacies involved in live link permissions, especially for international witnesses.

The doctrine of apparent bias, as considered in Porter v Magill, played a role, juxtaposing the Claimant’s perceptions against the fair-minded and informed observer test, which seeks a real possibility of bias rather than mere suspicion or hypersensitivity.


Mr Justice Julian Knowles upheld the Southwark Crown Court’s decisions on both counts. On the question of adjournment, the Court’s case management discretion was deemed appropriate, following the principles laid out in Picton and Balogun, given the Claimant’s non-compliance and delay in seeking the Interested Party’s submissions.

As for representation, the lack of explicit written authorisation rendered Lehram not properly before the Court, hence validating the refusal to hear from the purported representatives over video link. Notably, the decision not to grant video link access for overseas representation was echoed in Kadir, stressing the importance of considering diplomatic permissions and the risk of video link testimony.


The case reaffirms the importance of explicit written authorisation for corporate representation in criminal proceedings, rigor in case management decisions surrounding adjournment applications, and the nuanced requirements for live video links in cross-border testimonies. By extensively applying and clarifying legal principles to a complex fact pattern, Mr Justice Julian Knowles provides valuable jurisprudential guidance, underscoring that the pursuit of justice necessitates an adherence to strict procedural protocols as much as to the substantive law. This judgment reiterates the imperative for parties to act diligently, comply with procedural requisites, and to provide courts with the requisite information to make informed judgments in ensuring fair trial proceedings.