A recent decision by the Court of Appeal has established that a partnership can be held liable in criminal proceedings as a separate entity from its individual partners. The individual partners’ assets are protected unless complicity or negligence can be shown.
The case concerned W Stevenson & Sons, a partnership involved in fish auctions, which was convicted at Truro Crown Court on various counts under the Sea Fishing (Enforcement of Community Control Measures) Order 2000. W Stevenson & Sons, along with the eight partners, sought leave to appeal against the conviction and were refused.
In reaching its decision the Court of Appeal held that as business activities were conducted in the name of the partnership and the partnership had identifiable assets that were distinct from the personal assets of each partner, there was no reason why the partnership should not be treated for the purposes of criminal law as a separate entity from the individuals making it up.
Given that the 2000 Order draws a clear distinction between a partnership and an individual partner, the view of the Court was that partnerships can be liable as independent entities. It followed that, where a partnership alone was indicted, any fine imposed could only be levied against the assets of the partnership.
The Court further held that only the convicted party could seek leave to appeal and, since the individual partners were joined with the partnership in the appeal application, they were not defendants and therefore not entitled to appeal. The partnership had not shown any arguable ground for appealing against the conviction so the application was refused.
Says <<CONTACT DETAILS>>, “Whilst the decision meant that the partners’ personal assets could not be confiscated, those of the partnership could. The decision could have wide implications for how partnerships hold their assets.”