A West Sussex chartered accountant who caused untold misery when he helped a colleague defraud more than £825,000 from struggling companies must accept his lengthy jail, top judges have ruled.
Father-of-two Michael Worrall, 47, carried out tainted transactions and manipulated accounts under the direction of James Bradney, 48, while the pair worked for insolvency practitioners in Kent.
Worrall, of Park Lane, Maplehurst, near Horsham, was jailed for 32 months at Maidstone Crown Court in February, after he admitted conspiracy to commit fraud by abuse of a position of trust.
On Tuesday, three senior judges at London’s Court of Appeal rejected a sentence challenge by remorseful Worrall, saying they saw ‘no error’ in his punishment.
Sir Richard Henriques said the pair worked for Bridge Business Recovery LLP when Bradney instructed Worrall to transfer sums from five of the companies the firm was administering in eleven transactions.
Bradney, of Kings Road, Headcorn, told Worrall that the cash would be used for business purposes and would eventually be paid back, but it never was.
Worrall manipulated the management accounts to ensure the illicit activity was hidden.
In total, £825,019 was transferred from the businesses, with £280,000 spent by Bradney on himself. Worrall did not benefit at all from the fraudulent enterprise, the appeal judge said.
When the truth emerged, Bradney wrote a note to the partners of Bridge Business Recovery, stating that Worrall had been ‘effectively coerced and bullied’ into carrying out the transactions.
The pair co-operated fully in revealing their deceit to the authorities, with Worrall providing ‘extensive and fulsome’ help by surrendering text messages and information which laid out the full extent of the plot, the appeal judge said.
Due to their conspiracy, the companies which made up Bridge Business Recovery LLP collapsed in June 2011, resulting in 40 job losses.
Bradney, who admitted the same charge, was handed a 42-month sentence. Both men were disqualified from acting as company directors - Bradney for seven years and Worrall for five years.
Worrall, who has two young daughters, had endured a difficult spell at the time as his wife was suffering from health problems. She had described the previously blameless accountant as a ‘committed family man’.
Challenging his punishment as ‘excessive’, his lawyers argued that Worrall had acted out of a ‘misguided sense of loyalty’ towards Bradney.
But Sir Richard Henriques, sitting with Lady Justice Rafferty and Mrs Justice Simler, dismissed the appeal, saying: “We see no error in the judgment here.
“The amount involved was significantly in excess of £500,000 with two highly professional men who, from the very outset, were in severe breach of trust...
“The consequences of their criminality were dire, not only in financial terms, but in human misery.”