Dragon PR tax fraud trial aborted

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The trial of a PR guru charged with two counts of cheating the public revenue, which started on Monday 1 July at Bristol Crown Court, has been aborted by the Judge. 

New Zealander Richard Hillgrove, who has represented BBC Dragons James Caan and Duncan Bannatyne, had pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Between March 2011 and June 2012, Hillgrove is accused of attempting to defraud the public revenue of almost £100,000 in VAT and PAYE. 

Hillgrove is accused of failing to declare VAT receipts and...

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About Rachael White


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02nd Jul 2013 23:44

No lawyer

Last year the press reported that under relatively new means-testing arrangements, whilst Mr Hillgrove could be represented by a lawyer paid for under legal aid, he would first have to pay a contribution of over £100,000 towards his defence costs.  (The contribution would be refunded to him after the trial if he was acquitted.)

Apparently Mr Hillgrove's position is that he is not guilty of any offence but due to cash flow issues he has not been able to pay his taxes.

He is reported to have said, "If I had that amount of money readily available there wouldn’t be have been an issue with tax arrears in the first place".

He is now representing himself without a lawyer.

Irrespective of Mr Hillgrove's guilt or innocence, there is a question mark over the fairness of legal proceedings in which one side is funded by the state and the other side is unable to pay for a lawyer (or, presumably, an expert witness should that be appropriate).

Added to which the trial judge will inevitably have to take extra time and trouble to ensure that a defendant representing himself understands and abides by the rules of court procedure (and ultimately that extra time costs the public purse extra money).

So what the public purse saves on legal aid it may well lose in trial costs.


Thanks (4)
03rd Jul 2013 09:15

The New System

I agree entirely David but this is the new systems.  From tax enquiries to criminal prosecutions the system is weighted heavily in favour of HMG- there has never been true separation of Government & Judiciary -but neither care so long as their snouts remain in the trough and the little people are kept in order.   The ratchet system used ensures that things will only get worse.  But as I say that's the new system of 'Law’ in the UK

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03rd Jul 2013 12:12

David's point about unrepresented defendants taking up a dispropotionate amount of the court's time is borne out by my one and only experience of court proceedings.

Our firm didn't routinely take proceedings against non-paying clients, but made an exception in the case of a serial offender - a new client who openly boasted of how she never paid her solicitor's bills.  She hired us to represent her in a Revenue investigation into her alleged tax evasion.  I handled it and 'got her off'.  She may well have been fiddling, but we succeeded in persuading the Revenue that their evidence wasn't strong enough to go for a settlement.  Then I sent her our bill, she refused to pay and we took her to court.

It should have been an open-and-shut case, taking up very little court time.  We had a letter of engagement, the client had contracted us to do the job, we'd done a good job, our charge was reasonable and she'd refused to pay.  But she chose to represent herself in court.  Our (plaintiff's) case took half an hour, and the client's defence took the rest of the day.  I was most impressed by the judge.  He was able to grasp every point fully as soon as it was made, but presumably in the interests of justice, he effectively sorted out the client's shambolic defence case for her - he became her defence lawyer and she read this to mean that he was on her side.  His summing up at the end was exemplary - he summed up all the facts and gave judgment in favour of our firm.

Justice was served, but a case which should have taken an hour clogged up the court for a whole day.

Thanks (3)
to andy.partridge
03rd Jul 2013 12:27


<a href="mailto:[email protected]">[email protected]</a> wrote:


Our firm didn't routinely take proceedings against non-paying clients, but made an exception in the case of a serial offender - a new client who openly boasted of how she never paid her solicitor's bills. 

I have had a few of these...the words


Pament In Advance


spring to mind...why waste a day in court....


They always payup and no stress :)


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03rd Jul 2013 14:05


presumably HMRC would not bring a case if it was just a case of late payment, unless it is fraudulent trading and that would be something else.

as said above perhaps the trial will drag on because of a lack of clear understanding that legal representation may bring.

I wonder how many non arguments will be presented to confuse a non professional Jury and whether this might actually benefit the defendant who might just demonstrate that he and the jury don't understand what tax evasion is.

These are also small amounts of tax that would normally be a civil issue, so has it only ended up in court because he knows some d list celebrities?

Perhaps the investigation was dealt by himself without an accountant as the raid also seems excessive.

As usual we are missing the juicy details.

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03rd Jul 2013 15:33

You have to be patient for the details...

As they are covered by what we are allowed to report when a trial is in progress. We are duty-bound to write only about evidence that has been presented in court.

Unfortunately, Rachael has just returned from the court, where the trial was aborted for procedural reasons. I'm afraid you'll have to wait until late July when the case is scheduled to start again. Until then, please avoid from speculating about what Hillgrove did or didn't do, as we would not want to prejudice the second trial.

Topics that do not impinge on the evidence presented, such as the fairness of defendants not being able to afford Legal Aid representation, or discussing the circumstances where you have been caught up in a similar situation re fine, as long as you do not attempt to relate them to this case.

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03rd Jul 2013 15:38

HMRC and prosecutions


Anyone interested on how

Her Majesty‟s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) viewes HMRC`s disclosure policy in cases like this should read the recently published HMIC report which, even accepting it as a sanitized version, was nothing short of shocking. I wonder if Mr Hillgrove is aware of it and its implications for his trial as based on the content of the report everything HMRC puts to the Court needs to be tested to the limit. More importantly he should be wondering what information HMRC may be sitting on that may help his case that has not been disclosed. At the very least I would have thought he would want to make the Jury aware of the reports existence.


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to ruxanda.cerlenco
03rd Jul 2013 22:41


D Weston wrote:

mikefleming3028 wrote:


Anyone interested on how

Her Majesty‟s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) viewes HMRC`s disclosure policy in cases like this should read the recently published HMIC report which, even accepting it as a sanitized version, was nothing short of shocking. .


Does anyone have a link to this report ?

Google isn't being very helpful (as usual).


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to Justin Bryant
05th Jul 2013 11:46

A minor masterpiece

Leaving aside the rather scary subject matter the report is a minor masterpiece of concision and plain English.  It should be a compulsory style guide for all bureaucrats...

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03rd Jul 2013 15:49

And now for something completely different . . .

If you are thirsting for the cut and thrust of criminal prosecution you could have a look at the item I have posted today in the Money Laundering & Crime Discussion Group on Confiscation and VAT or at my recent blog concerning a case of a Book-keeper accused of stealing.



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03rd Jul 2013 17:53

David, re. Beatrix

What facts would have been considered in determining whether "Beatrix" had been conducting a criminal lifestile, and how would that have affected proposals for confiscation proceedings?

With kind regards

Clint Westwood

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03rd Jul 2013 18:14

Confiscation for 'Beatrix' (not)


Whether someone does or does not have a 'criminal lifestyle' is (except in very rare cases) easy to determine.

In Beatrix's case she would have a 'criminal lifestyle' because she was convicted in the same proceedings of more than 3 offences (in relation to (i) cash thefts, (ii) fraudulent bank transfers, (iii) false representation for claiming Job Seeker's Allowance and (iv) false representation for claiming Council Tax Benefit) and the total benefit was at least £5,000 - see s75 PoCA 2002.

(In fact one could reach the same conclusion by a different route - the fraudulent bank transfers were treated as a single count on the indictment but were an offence continuing for at least 6 months from which a benefit of at least £5,000 was obtained.)

But, for whatever reason, the Crown did not ask the judge to consider confiscation nor did the judge go for confiscation on his own initiative.  The most likely reason is that Beatrix had no assets worth chasing and going for confiscation on the basis of criminal lifestyle would involve extra procedures with no extra result.

In all the circumstances she got a very fair 'deal' out of the Crown Court!


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05th Jul 2013 12:17

Government and judiciary

I note bobhurn's statement, "there has never been true separation of Government & Judiciary" and am surprised noboday has said anything about it.  I accept that in some cases, English justice is the best money can buy but from personal experience of knowing county court, high court judges and an appeal court judge they are fiercely independent and hold the law above Government.

Government is made up of three elements, the executive, Parliament and the judiciary.  I believe the number of times the Daily Mail squeals about judges being out of touch, policitician compalining about Court decisions, adequately demonstrates how the judiciary uphold what the law is rather than what the chattering classes would like it to be.

GeorgeGill nails it when he identified the amount of time and tolerance a judge will give an unrepresented person.  The Court wants due process to work and be seen to work.

Having spent a while reading the HMIC report, it looks like a considerable part of HMRC hanker back to trial by ordeal.  Of course you can absorb the basics of disclosure requirements with a 20 minute video.  A lot of it identifies that HMRC is an organisation in name only but is made up of disparate non-communicating parts each with its own computer system which cannot communicate with any other, which largely reflect the attitudes of the individuals within those tribes; I think we have been saying this since long before 2005.





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to lionofludesch
05th Jul 2013 15:52


George Gretton wrote:

I myself got arrested last year, by no less than four Uniformed Met Officers at 9.58 in two cars one Thursday evening, after I had gone to bed, as the result of a fairly profound and catastrophic misunderstanding around a matter involving very, very strong feelings indeed.

Always be careful when chatting up police officers!

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05th Jul 2013 14:58


Certainly a booming industry and no shortage of customers!

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By chatman
to Glennzy
11th Jul 2013 07:35

Evil Policemen

George Gretton wrote:
I met two almost evil Custody Sergeants, but then they must get an awesome amount of manure thrown at them by their prisoners in custody.

No excuse to be evil.

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13th Sep 2013 08:55

Bishop Jones, HMRC & Hillgrove case

Any update available on this case? Last comment I read was that it was scheduled to re-start at the end of July......

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