Laura Larner secured an acquittal for Sandra Catron after a
successful submission of "no case to answer" at the close
of the case for the Crown. Ms Catron was facing an indictment
containing eight counts of uttering false documents, but at the
close of the prosecution case, Swift J accepted the submissions
made by Ms Larner that the Crown had failed to establish that the
documents in question were "false" documents.
These documents were completion certificates in respect of an
online paralegal course, which was accredited by the Institute of
Paralegals in the UK and run by Ms Catron. The Government had
sponsored students to take the course through the Nation Building
Fund. Ms Catron was asked by the Government to produce these
certificates as part of what they said was an assessment of whether
the course provided value for money.
The email correspondence relating to the request for and the
submission of the certificates indicated that the documents had
been created, for the legitimate purpose of being distributed to
those students who successfully completed the course, before they
were requested by the Government. The Judge noted that the
certificates were never unilaterally offered by Ms Catron and were
submitted only at the request of the Government. Ms Catron had
advised the Government staff making the request that she had
printed, but not distributed, the certificates in advance of the
end date of the course.
The relevant definition of a false document under the Penal Code
is that, in order to be false, a document must purport to be
something that it is not. Case law on the point from England and
Wales, relating to the analogous offence under the law of that
jurisdiction, made clear that this means that in order to be false
a document must "tell a lie about itself". Swift J stated
that such a document must have been created by someone intending to
defraud or deceive. It was emphasised that fraud in the use of a
document must not be confused with fraud in its creation. In this
case, the Judge held, there was no evidence that the certificates
were false when they were created and that therefore they did not
tell lies about themselves. In these circumstances, the Crown had
failed to prove an essential element of the offences, namely that
the documents were false, and the jury were directed to return
"not guilty" verdicts on all counts.
On the 20th February, 2015 Act No. III of 2015 was published making various amendments to the PMLA (Cap. 373 of the Laws of Malta) (as well as, to a lesser extent, to the Criminal Code and to the Professional Secrecy Act).
Leaving aside the comparatively minor matters dealt with in the Magistrate’s Court, all prosecutions within Jersey are brought in the name of Her Majesty’s Attorney General for Jersey and by dint of modern practice are in the vast majority of cases prosecuted by a Crown Advocate.
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