Ex-council buyer jailed for IT fraud

27 April 2005
More legal news

28 April 2005 | David Arminas

A former purchaser at the London Borough of Havering has been sentenced to 15 months in jail for his part in an IT fraud.

Kevin Barry and three people from IT supplier Orbital Solutions sat impassively in the glassed-in dock at Southwark Crown Court last Friday as the presiding judge read out their sentences.

In his summing up, the judge said that Barry's motive was solely greed and only a custodial sentence was suitable.

Barry was convicted on 10 counts of corruption contrary to section 1(1) of the Pubic Bodies Corrupt Practices Act 1889.

He had earlier pleaded guilty to receiving payments totalling just over £12,000 from Orbital between July 1999 and September 2000.

The payments were 10 cheques that he initially said were for consultancy work done with Orbital outside his Havering office hours.

In return Orbital was awarded orders worth around £145,000 for computer equipment and software, a substantial increase over their previous contract work.

During the year prior to the fraud starting, Orbital had only five orders worth £2,500.

Also sentenced along with Barry was Christopher Clarke, the managing director of Orbital.

Clarke's defence said that their client had been corrupted by Barry and that Clarke had lost everything all because of "one day's stupidity".

The judge, however, was not swayed, and suggested that "it was hardly one day of stupidity". Also, Clarke took "little or no persuasion" to enter into the fraud initiated by Barry and the judge gave him 12 months in jail.

Clarke was also disqualified from being a company director for five years.

John Brett, Orbital accountant, and Nicholas Stevenson, former sales director, each received 200 hours of community service, but no custodial sentence.

At the beginning of the sentencing, Stevenson had entered the courtroom and unusually sat in the public gallery rather than the dock along with the other defendants.

His defence said that "because of a lack of goodwill" among the other defendants, Stevenson "felt very uncomfortable about the close proximity to the others". However, the judge ordered him into the dock.

The judge took Brett's age, 66, into consideration. As well, he said Brett "had been presented with a fait accompli" by Clarke, who is also Brett's son-in-law.

Finally, the judge praised Paul Murray, who works within Havering's IT department, for being the first to bring the illegal deal to the attention of the local authority. For his "fair and measured" evidence during the trial, Murray was awarded "£500 from the public purse".

Immediately after the judge had ordered "take them down, please", Barry and his distraught wife, who watched proceedings from the public gallery, waved and threw kisses at each other as he was led away.

John Scowen, corporate procurement manager at Havering, and vice-chairman of the Society of Procurement Officers in Local Government, said the authority is pleased that the issue is has been closed.

"For Havering's sake, we are glad it has come to an end and can move on from here," he said.

"The case happened at a time when IT was doing its own procurement, but since then we have moved IT buying into purchasing and put in place contract procedures that would bring such corruption to light more quickly."

He said tenders must now be approved by council members and Havering has also introduced a contracts register.

"If the council makes any payment to suppliers that are £25,000 or over, then purchasing has the right to ask to see the contracts register and check out the deal."

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