A former sole practitioner cleared of money laundering charges has won the right to a trial in his claim against his prosecutors.
Phillip Rudall, who is no longer practising, alleges that the Crown Prosecution Service and South Wales Police mounted a campaign against him to drive him out of the profession.
Rudall was twice cleared of wrongdoing after charges had been brought against him: once in 2005 when he was acquitted at Cardiff Crown Court of conspiracy to defraud and perverting the course of justice; and in 2013 when nine money laundering charges were dismissed for lack of evidence.
The former Swansea solicitor issued proceedings in 2014 contending that the CPS and police were engaged in an improper operation designed to prevent him from practising.
His pleaded claims include ‘misuse of process’ in respect of a search warrant, malicious prosecution, misfeasance in public office and breach of section six of the Human Rights Act.
He claimed for loss of earnings as a solicitor – his practice having closed in 2004 – and subsequent losses as a legal consultant as he suffered psychological and psychiatric damage.
Suspicions surfaced about Rudall after he acted for two clients or their companies in a number of transactions related to allegedly fraudulent pyramid selling schemes.
An investigation was authorised in 2001 after prosecutors suspected Rudall of converting cash into assets and in 2002 search warrants were executed at Rudall’s office and two other addresses.
A week before Rudall’s trial in 2005, the defence applied to exclude all material recovered by the police in executing the search warrant, an application which was dismissed. In the event, Rudall was unanimously acquitted by a jury.
The CPS and police then proceeded to consider money laundering charges, but after a three-year investigation a judge ruled there was insufficient evidence for a jury to conclude a scheme he advised on was fraudulent.
The charges against him and his partner were dismissed.
Following a two-day hearing, Mr Justice Phillips dismissed Rudall’s claim on the first prosecution as it was made too late, but said his claim based on the second prosecution should be subject to trial.
In Rudall v The Crown Prosecution Service & Anor, Phillips said the prosecution’s lack of evidence was ‘not a last-minute problem’ and was based on material obtained almost 10 years previously. The material was, on its face, ‘incomplete and of uncertain origin’.
‘The CPS was acutely aware that the evidence it had might not be sufficient to prosecute Mr Rudall, but proceeded to do so anyway,’ said the judge. ‘It took no steps to obtain fresh evidence, but instead proceeded towards a six-month trial.’
Rudall had contended the CPS’s ‘primary and improper motive’ was to continue to prevent him from practising, and Phillips said this argument had some support from ‘unfortunate’ expressions from counsel at the time.
The judge ruled the defendants were entitled to an order striking out Rudall’s claim in relation to the first prosecution, but said his claim for malicious prosecution in relation to the second prosecution should proceed to trial.
He may also amend his claim to add a claim of conspiracy to injure by unlawful means.
Rudall’s claims for misfeasance in public office and his human rights claim may also proceed, in so far as they relate to matters after 2008.