What are the possible Labour/Blair/Levy offences?

One thing the media hasn’t really explored is what the police are attempting to establish.  What are the offences that may have been committed by the relevant Labour players here.  The BBC website suggests two statutes are at play: the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000, and the  Honours (Prevention of Abuses) Act 1925. 

Professor Hennessey has been touring the Beeb today indicating that the later is not really in issue here.  However,  section 1 of the 1925 Act provides that,

“(1) If any person accepts or obtains or agrees to accept or attempts to obtain from any person, for himself, or for any other person, or for any purpose, any gift, money or valuable consideration as an inducement or reward for procuring or assisting or endeavouring to procure the grant of a dignity or title of honour to any person, or otherwise in connection with such a grant, he shall be guilty of an offence.

(2)  if any person gives, or agrees or proposes to give, or offers to any person any gift, money or valuable consideration as an inducement or reward for procuring or assisting or endeavouring to procure the grant of a dignity or title of honour to any person, or otherwise in connection with such a grant, he shall be guilty of an offence.”

Thus, if someone has (attempted to or) obtained a donation to assist or endeavour to obtain a peerage it’s a crime.  Well, contrary to Professor Hennessey’s view this seems very relevant given the allegations (although the focus on intent leaves it an open question for evidence – although one would suggest all the more likely to require a jury decision rather than a no prosecution decision by the prosecutor.

The 2000 Act focuses on donations and the regulatory regime regarding the publication of donations.  THe key sections are section 61 and 50.  Section 61 makes it an offence to try to evade the rules on registering donors and donations.  Its terms are as follows:

61.   (1) A person commits an offence if he-
 
    (a) knowingly enters into, or
 
    (b) knowingly does any act in furtherance of,
  any arrangement which facilitates or is likely to facilitate, whether by means of any concealment or disguise or otherwise, the making of donations to a registered party by any person or body other than a permissible donor.
      (2) A person commits an offence if-  
 
    (a) he knowingly gives the treasurer of a registered party any information relating to-
 
      (i) the amount of any donation made to the party, or
 
      (ii) the person or body making such a donation,
 
    which is false in a material particular; or
 
    (b) with intent to deceive, he withholds from the treasurer of a registered party any material information relating to a matter within paragraph (a)(i) or (ii).

This then begs the question what is a donation that requires to be notified.  DOnation is defined in section 50.

 (2)  “Donation”, in relation to a registered party, means (subject to section 52)-
 
    (a) any gift to the party of money or other property;
 
    (b) any sponsorship provided in relation to the party (as defined by section 51);
 
    (c) any subscription or other fee paid for affiliation to, or membership of, the party;
 
    (d) any money spent (otherwise than by or on behalf of the party) in paying any expenses incurred directly or indirectly by the party;
 
    (e) any money lent to the party otherwise than on commercial terms;
 
    (f) the provision otherwise than on commercial terms of any property, services or facilities for the use or benefit of the party (including the services of any person).

For the Labopur case the key to the argument is s 50(2)(e).  It is not a donation which requires to be registered if it is a loan “on commercial terms”.  When is a loan a loan on commercial terms?  Helpfully the legislation gives some assistance.

(4)  In determining-
 
    (a) for the purposes of subsection (2)(e), whether any money lent to a registered party is so lent otherwise than on commercial terms, or
 
    (b) for the purposes of subsection (2)(f), whether any property, services or facilities provided for the use or benefit of a registered party is or are so provided otherwise than on such terms,
  regard shall be had to the total value in monetary terms of the consideration provided by or on behalf of the party in respect of the loan or the provision of the property, services or facilities.

But do the potential offences stop there?

The Prevention from Corruption Acts 1889 – 1916 have been rather forgotten here.  They provide in s 1 of the 1889 Public Bodies Corrupt Practices Act as follows:

“(1) Every person who shall by himself or by or in conjunction with any other person, corruptly solicit or receive, or agree to receive, for himself, or for any other person, any gift, loan, fee, reward, or advantage whatever as an inducement to, or reward for, or otherwise on account of any member, officer, or servant of a public body as in this Act defined, doing or forbearing to do anything in respect of any matter or transaction whatsoever, actual or proposed, in which the said public body is concerned, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.

   (2) Every person who shall by himself or by or in conjunction with any other person corruptly give, promise, or offer any gift, loan, fee, reward, or advantage whatsoever to any person, whether for the benefit of that person or of another person, as an inducement to or reward for or otherwise on account of any member, officer, or servant of any public body as in this Act defined, doing or forbearing to do anything in respect of any matter or transaction whatsoever, actual or proposed, in which such public body as aforesaid is concerned, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.”

These provisions are often forgotten but are quite wide ranging.  They criminalise representatives of public bodies from conferring advantages.  Two questions arise.  What is a public body?  And what is an advantage?  The former is defined in the 1916 ACt s 4 as a public authority of any description (it governs local government. does it apply to national government?).  An “advantage” is defined in s 7 of the 1889 ACt and includes “any office or dignity, and any forbearance to demand any money or money’s worth or valuable thing, and includes any aid, vote, consent, or influence, or pretended aid, vote, consent, or influence, and also includes any promise or procurement of or agreement or endeavour to procure, or the holding out of any expectation of any gift, loan, fee, reward, or advantage, as before defined.”

However, an offence under the 1889-1916 ACts requires the action to be made “corruptly”.  This expression has been defined in a more expansive way than one might imagine.  Cases in the 1960s confirmed that corruptly does not imply dishonesty but the “purposely doing an act wich the law forbids as tending to corrupt”.  It is not a good defence that you belive the payment is lawful, or that the payment is made in good faith.  The offence under these Acts lies with the recipient and the donor. 

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About loveandgarbage

I watch the telly and read when not doing law stuff and plugging my decade and a half old unwatched Edinburgh fringe show.
This entry was posted in labour loans, law, lord levy, sleaze, statutory provisions, tony blair, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

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