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Acquitted Businessman can be named in DPA Judgement

Author: Niall Hearty  20 March 2024
2 min read

Niall Hearty of Rahman Ravelli details why the High Court ruled a company’s deferred prosecution agreement can contain a former director’s name.

An individual has failed in his attempt to be anonymous in the court judgement approving a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) involving his former company.

Robb Simms-Davies, who had been a director at office outfitting company Bluu Solutions, had sought to keep his name out of the DPA that Bluu received after admitting bribery offences.

But in the High Court (Serious Fraud Office v. AB Ltd. and CD Ltd., case number U20210959), Mrs Justice Juliet May said in judgment that her decision approving Bluu Solutions’ settlement would be published with the names of all of the individuals involved in the case in it - including that of Robb Simms-Davies. 

Simms-Davies had asked for his name to be anonymised at a hearing last November, after he had been acquitted of bribery charges. He had argued that including his name in the order approving Bluu Solution’s DPA with the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) would lead to people inferring he was guilty.

But May J disagreed with the view that publishing a de-anonymised judgment would imply guilt on Simms-Davies’ part. She said that “having made it plain in my judgment that my role in approving the DPA involved making no findings of fact, the harm to the reputation of any individual named must be negligible”. 

She explained that “no evidence has been advanced of any specific disadvantage which will result’’ from Simms-Davies being named. May J added that none of the other acquitted individuals had suggested that they should remain anonymous – and that if their names are published then Simms-Davies’ position “becomes even less tenable”. 

Restrictions

Bluu Solutions and its sister company Tetris Projects agreed to pay a total of £2.5 million for breaches of the UK Bribery Act. A judge at Southwark Crown Court imposed reporting restrictions on the two companies’ DPAs as soon as they were agreed in 2021, preventing the media naming Bluu and Tetris.

In order to avoid prejudicing the criminal case against individuals charged over the bribery, the court delayed publishing a written judgment accepting the DPA until after the accused had been tried. But the High Court heard that an error had led to the judgement not being published immediately after the trial had concluded. Simms-Davies then sought to have his name anonymised in the judgement.

He and two other businessmen had been found not guilty in January 2023 of six counts of bribery. They had been accused of involvement in a scheme where over £500,000 in bribes was allegedly paid to help Bluu Solutions and Tetris Projects win five office refurbishment contracts, worth £11 million, between 2014 and 2016.

After reporting restrictions were lifted in March 2023, media organisations were able to report that one other individual, Roger Dewhirst, had pleaded guilty in 2022 to accepting bribes to help Bluu Solutions and Tetris projects win the office refurbishment contracts. 

In her judgement, May J said that retaining Simms-Davies’ anonymity would be “simply confusing, and pointless given the ease with which” the link could be made between the individuals and the settlement. She referred to there being a report of the criminal proceedings on the SFO website next to a report of the DPA, “making the connection obvious”. 

Niall Hearty C 07998

Niall Hearty

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niall.hearty@rahmanravelli.co.uk
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Niall has a wealth of corporate crime expertise and an ability to coordinate global bribery and corruption cases. His achievements in such investigations have made him a logical choice for corporate clients.

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