A Swansea solicitor subject to a fraud investigation for more than 11 years has failed with an action for damages for malicious prosecution.
In Rudall v The Crown Prosecution Service & Anor, the High Court found a CPS lawyer key to the charging of Phillip Rudall had acted honestly. Rudall, now 66 and a solicitor for 40 years, and his partner were charged in 2004 with conspiracy to defraud and perverting the course of justice. Both were acquitted by a jury of all charges in May 2005 after a trial at Swansea Crown Court.
Rudall and his partner were then charged in 2010 with laundering the proceeds of a fraudulent ‘Ponzi’ scheme, only for a judge to make a preliminary ruling three years later that ‘sole and decisive’ evidence was not admissible.
In civil proceedings against the CPS and South Wales Police (the action was later discontinued against the police), the High Court subsequently ruled that claims from the first prosecution were struck out on limitation grounds, with no real prospect of establishing reasonable and probable cause. But the court refused to enter judgment over the second prosecution.
Following a 10-day hearing at the High Court (Queen’s Bench Division) earlier this year, Mrs Justice Lambert stated that Rudall had conceded he needed to prove that the CPS reviewing lawyer, himself a solicitor for 42 years, was motivated by malice.
The court heard that Rudall came to the attention of investigators because of his close links with one of two individuals who had incorporated a number of fraudulent enterprises. He was also company solicitor for two of these enterprises.
He argued that the CPS lawyer knew about defects in the case against him and that crucial evidence on which the prosecution relied was inadmissible. He suggested this knowledge was deliberately withheld but Rudall was charged anyway.
It was submitted that the CPS lawyer was motivated ‘not by a desire to bring Mr Rudall to justice on the basis of the charges but because of the ulterior and improper motivation of stopping him practising as a solicitor coupled with general ill-will and spite’.
The CPS submitted that its lawyer was a ‘straightforward and honest’ witness, who did not know Rudall in his professional or personal life. It was argued that the key evidence was not ‘plainly’ inadmissible and that a reasonable prosecutor could legitimately think it would be admitted.
The judge accepted that at the heart of the case was the honesty and integrity of the CPS lawyer, based on the claimant’s belief he had been deceitful and cunning and acted in the ‘utmost bad faith’. But the judge said the case against the CPS lawyer was ‘inherently improbable’, that there was no suggestion he knew Rudall, and that it was ‘intrinsically unlikely’ he should gamble his career, reputation and livelihood on getting a conviction.
The judge added: ‘There is nothing which I draw from my review of the documents or the manner in which [the CPS lawyer] gave his evidence at trial which points me in the direction of him being anything other than an honest and sincere, if slightly perplexed, man.’
It was ruled that the CPS lawyer had an honest belief in the charge, and that this was reasonable. There was no evidence of him having been improperly influenced by counsel and there was nothing unusual or sinister about him being involved in decision-making.
The judge acknowledged that Rudall had lived under a cloud of suspicion for many years, which had affected his life ‘profoundly’, but the claim for malicious prosecution was dismissed.