Yes I’ve been away for a while, working as it happens, but woke up this morning to news of something that merits the attention of our esteemed Director of Public Prosecutions.
If he can manage to tear himself away from the exhausting task of “improving the quality” of the prosecution product that he promotes, (i.e. slashing staff and destroying in-house morale), he might just like to open a copy of the Bribery Act (Section 2 is the bit you need Keir) and have it handy while he’s poring over the Peter Cruddas story in today’s papers.
This is NOT one for the SFO, but fairly and squarely, one for him.
He needs to look at some law, and so do we:
Offences relating to being bribed
(1) A person (“R”) is guilty of an offence if any of the following cases applies.
(2) Case 3 is where R requests, agrees to receive or accepts a financial or other advantage intending that, in consequence, a relevant function or activity should be performed improperly (whether by R or another person).
And then this:
(6) In cases 3 to 6 it does not matter—
(a) whether R requests, agrees to receive or accepts (or is to request, agree to receive or accept) the advantage directly or through a third party,
(b) whether the advantage is (or is to be) for the benefit of R or another person.
And he also needs to look at what Cruddas said, – as do we.
(this link may need cntrl-click)
“What you would get, we’d get you at the Cameron and Osborne dinners.”
“If you’re unhappy about something, we’ll listen to you and put it into the policy committee at Number 10”
“Some of our bigger donors have been for dinner in Number 10 Downing Street in the PM’s private apartments….. “
“Things will open up for you… but you need to go in with a bit of, you know, it’s no good scratching around with ‘it’s ten grand now and five grand then’, …minimum hundred grand, but the nearer you can get to two hundred grand, and hold back for the events, … it’ll be awesome for your business”
So what does Section 2 have to say about the above?
Well he’s not “agreeing to receive” money, in the sense of accepting a financial advantage that has been offered, because from what we can see on the video, nothing has been proactively offered.
It follows that nothing has been “accepted” either.
The issue hinges on whether or not anything he says amounts to “asking” for a financial advantage.
He doesn’t need to receive anything, the offence being complete merely by the making of the request.
What he did not say was, “Please give the party some money.” It is evident however, that this was a meeting between the party co-treasurer and two prospective donors.
We do not know at whose instigation this meeting took place, or what discussions preceded it.
From Cruddas’ point of view, he was faced with people who were considering donating, and wanted to know what, if any, advantages a donation might bring.
Again we don’t see the entire conversation, but we DO see Cruddas effectively setting out a “tariff” of benefits. The more you give, the more you get.
Does Section 2 require a specific request for a financial advantage, in order for the person making that request, to commit an offence?
Your humble blogger would submit that the answer to that question must be “No.”
To conclude otherwise would mean that any broad hint, or “nudge and a wink” would fall outside the act, both in terms of asking for a bribe (Sec2) or offering one (Sec1)
In other words, telling someone that if they happened to be kind enough to place a brown envelope stuffed with cash in your briefcase, after which they might just happen to get an invite to dip their snouts in the Number 10 Pig Tough, would not be an offence, whereas coming straight out with “Gissa Bung,” would be.
If the DPP ducks the issue by saying that there was no direct request for payment, then the whole act is dead in the water. (pun intended.)
As one of Her Majesty’s Counsel, learned in the law, Keir Starmer has to face up to the fact that here is a senior Tory Party official who has given a clear intimation to a potential donor, that in return for, and on condition of, the payment of a large sum of cash, that donor would be given direct access to the Prime Minister, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and influence in the Number 10 policy committee, for an “awesome” business advantage, not enjoyed by others.
This would amount to the effecting of an improper performance of the function of the person compiling the guest list, to invite someone to a dinner specifically in return for cash, to secure a business advantage not on the basis of need or merit, but “wedge.”
That improper performance would be effected in breach of the relevant expectation of you or me, (See sections 4 & 5) that political parties would not dish out favours for cash. (I did type that with a straight face, honest.)
Section 2 Subs 6 (b) makes it clear that the cash does not have to be for Cruddas’ advantage.
Or as we lawyers say, “you’re nicked sonny.”
That’s all for now, but as I always say, “Watch this Space.”