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Wednesday, 17 March 2010

False accounting

Here in Victoria, an offence of false-accounting contrary to s 83 of the Crimes Act 1958 is made out only if the documents are required for or prepared in connection with the accounting records of a business: R v Jenkins (2002) 6 VR 81. Examples provided by our Court of Appeal were balance sheets, profit and loss accounts, and income and revenue statements.

Section 83 is based on s 17 of the Theft Act 1968 (UK). The English Courts seem to interpret that section more broadly.

In R v Lancaster [2010] EWCA Crim 370 the Court of Appeal accepted that application forms for various social security benefits were accounting documents.

Mr Lancaster omitted to declare that he and his wife owned a web-design company run from their home, and were setting up another company that published and traded books.

The Court of Appeal considered that was a material particular by ommission and misleading, false or deceptive.

On first blush, it seems that Jenkins says that in Victoria, such conduct might amount to obtaining property by deception, but not false accounting. I'm not entirely certain.

Jenkins dealt with misleading property valuations that resulted in a building society lending money for a property when it would otherwise not have made the loan.

It might be that when the false or misleading or deceptive particular is provided directly on a loan document, that it is indeed an accounting document. After all, a financial institution requires that information to prepare its accounts. On a black-letter reading of the provision, I reckon that's a better 'fit' than obtaining property by deception.

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