A UK judge has ruled it is in the “public interest” to postpone by a year a trial against three former G4S executives accused of defrauding the taxpayer on a prisoner-tagging contract, following an application from the UK Serious Fraud Office.
Richard Morris, Mark Preston and James Jardine, three former executives in G4S’s care and justice business, will now face trial in January 2023 after a hearing at Southwark Crown Court on Thursday. The trial was originally due to begin in January, more than seven years after the SFO began its investigation.
Granting the SFO’s application on Thursday Mr Justice Johnson said it was “in the strong public interest” to delay the trial.
Morris, Preston and Jardine have each been charged with seven offences of fraud in relation to allegedly false representations made to the Ministry of Justice between 2009 and 2012. Morris was previously managing director at G4S Care & Justice; Preston was commercial director of the electronic monitoring division and Jardine was formerly finance manager and acting commercial director of that unit.
The SFO began investigating G4S in 2013 and last year agreed a £44m plea deal with the company to settle three fraud offences against the Ministry of Justice between 2011 and 2012.
G4S accepted responsibility for a scheme in which it deceived the government about the true extent of profits it was earning on a contract to tag prisoners. The company was able to avoid criminal prosecution in return for paying a fine and agreeing to a period of monitoring. The deal related only to G4S and did not address whether any employee or agent of the company was guilty of wrongdoing.
The SFO’s G4S case is one of two big prisoner-tagging investigations, after its probe into Serco collapsed this year.
The agency torpedoed its case against Nicholas Woods and Simon Marshall, two former Serco executives, in April after it failed to disclose documents to the defence and was refused an adjournment. The setback was a humiliating conclusion to its seven-and-a-half year investigation.
The SFO also signed a deferred prosecution agreement with Serco in 2019, which paid a £19.2m fine to settle three offences of fraud and two of false accounting between 2010 and 2013. Serco had overstated the profits on its own prisoner-tagging contract with the Ministry of Justice.