This law report was contributed by law firm Berrymans Lace Mawer.
Atlantic Electronics v Revenue and Customs
Court of Appeal, 12 June 2013
In this case, criminal proceedings were admissible in evidence against a company that had had its claim for input tax credit dismissed on the basis that the relevant transactions were connected with fraud.
The First-tier Tribunal decided that a statement from a revenue officer concerning the prosecution opening of a related criminal trial for offences of conspiracy to cheat the revenue should not be admissible as evidence against the claimant, on the ground that the evidence – which related to dishonesty in 2006 – was stale, and that its admission would add to the complexity of the trial.
The Upper Tribunal, however, found that the FTT had made an error in law by ignoring the fact that the conviction was a matter of public record, the conviction was in 2011, and the application for permission to admit the evidence was made five weeks after the conviction and could not have been made more promptly. In refusing to admit the evidence, the FTT had failed to consider the prejudice to the commissioners.
In its decision, the Court of Appeal held that the conviction was relevant to the present case, and that the application had been made as soon as was practicable. Further, it was not stale evidence, as the conviction related to the period of time during which the appellant was alleged to have been involved with fraudulent transactions. The Court of Appeal agreed that the FTT had failed to consider the prejudice caused by excluding the evidence.
The decision is relevant to all those involved in civil litigation, as it clarifies the law on when evidence of criminal proceedings may be prejudicial, and on when it may be in the interests of justice to admit it. It strengthens the hand of parties seeking to rely on criminal proceedings as evidence in civil claims, and is of importance across all areas of the insurance market.
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