The Court of Appeal dismissed an appeal against the conviction of one of the three people imprisoned for conspiring to defraud legal protection insurer DAS through a medical information agency.
Sally Jones’ appeal is the end of the line for the trio, with the court reporting that other applications for leave to appeal from her, Paul Asplin and David Kearns have been denied.
In July 2018, following a private prosecution initiated by the DAS, Ms Jones was sentenced to three years and nine months’ imprisonment and an eight-year ban from serving as a director.
Mr. Asplin was sentenced to seven years in prison and disqualified as a manager for 12 years. Mr. Kearns was sentenced to four years and three months’ imprisonment.
Mr. Asplin was Managing Director of DAS until 2014, while Mr. Kearns was employed until the end of 2004 as Claims Manager and Managing Director.
Ms. Jones had worked for DAS as a marketing manager, but quit in 1999 when she started a relationship with Mr. Asplin. They married in 2001 but divorced four years later.
Mr. Asplin and Mr. Kearns started a company, Medreport, and had DAS contract with them to provide medical reports – they processed over 90% of the reports required by DAS.
They were accused of making significant secret profits over a period of approximately 14 years, keeping their involvement, control and profits secret from DAS at all times.
Ms Jones became director of Medreport and later owner and director, continuing to run the company after Mr Asplin transferred his stake to her.
The Court of Appeal recorded: “Initially, Jones acted to channel the secret benefit that Asplin got him and to cover up the fact of his ownership. Over time, his interest in Medreport grew and that of Asplin and Kearns waned.
“In due course, it came into force to control the business. Throughout the plot, she was the primary point of contact with DAS and dealt regularly with members of her staff.
“She warned and cautioned her co-conspirators to attend Medreport in order to prevent any connection between them and DAS from reverting to DAS and its parent companies.”
In 2011, “some non-UK executives” in the DAS group insisted on bidding for expert reports and although Medreport failed in this process, its contract was nonetheless renewed.
“In 2012, the board of directors of DAS decided to end the relationship. Medreport, led by Sally Jones, sued DAS. Ignoring the plot, DAS settled the case and paid a compromise sum exceeding £ 800,000. “
Documents proving ownership of the secret were finally acquired by DAS in 2015 following a Norwich Pharmacy order.
The trial judge admitted that the scheme was not his doing, but said it was vital to its completion and maintenance.
She claimed that, in the 2013 settlement agreement, DAS undertook not to initiate civil or criminal proceedings against it.
In addition, she argued that the documents obtained by the prosecution in accordance with the Norwich Pharmacy the order should not have been allowed against her because she had not been clearly identified to the issuing judge as a potential suspect.
HHJ Beddoe considered that there was no indication that Ms Jones had been led to believe that she would not be subject to criminal prosecution, either at the time of the settlement agreement or of the Norwich Pharmacy request, and the Court of Appeal accepted.
Delivering the court ruling, Lord Justice Males said: ‘It is not clear that Sally Jones ever believed that the settlement agreement included a promise by DAS not to initiate criminal proceedings against her or that she had acted on the basis of such a belief, whether by adhering to the Norwich Pharmacy ask or not at all, and she chose not to testify.
“On the contrary, there is every reason to believe that she did not have such a belief and that the argument now being deployed is essentially a legal construction.
“Hence the late stage at which that point emerged when, if there had been substance, it would have been the first point to take.” The fact that it was only taken late, after a galaxy of abuse of process arguments had already been unsuccessfully deployed, speaks volumes.
Males LJ added that even if she had had such a belief, she would have been wrong. The law made it clear that any promise of immunity from criminal prosecution had to be unequivocal and “anyway” the settlement agreement was not.
“However, we would go further and conclude that [it] only concerns civil proceedings.
The court said the Norwich Pharmacy the request made it clear that DAS suspected that Ms Jones was part of the conspiracy and that DAS intended to use the documents produced, if they demonstrated beneficial ownership of Medreport by Messrs. Asplin and Kearns, seeking redress for the wrongdoing, which could extend to criminal prosecution, including a private prosecution.
“There was nothing to say that Sally Jones would not be a defendant in such a proceeding if the evidence obtained justified it. “
Males LJ continued that there was “no evidence” that Ms Jones ever believed that there would be no criminal charges against her or that she had been misled by the terms of the Norwich Pharmacy application.
He added that in any event, the Norwich Pharmacy the ordinance authorized the use of the documents produced in any criminal proceedings against her.