Belfast Telegraph

PSNI Traffic Branch chief's relief as trial for tax fraud halted

Superintendent Gerry Murray leaves Belfast Crown Court yesterday
Superintendent Gerry Murray leaves Belfast Crown Court yesterday

By Michael Donnelly

A high-profile police chief has spoken of his relief that a legal ruling stopping his trial for alleged tax evasion and fraud is not being challenged.

Gerry Murray, a former bodyguard to the Queen, said he was "relieved, and pleased at the staying of all of the criminal allegations against him, and for his good name being restored".

Superintendent Murray, suspended from his job as PSNI Traffic Branch chief since November 2015, said he "hoped to be in a position to return to duty as soon as possible", and that he wanted to also thank colleagues, "past and present who have stood by him".

The prosecution had been given a week to decide whether or not to appeal the ruling by Judge Patricia Smyth to 'stay' his Belfast Crown Court trial on the grounds it would amount to an abuse of process.

Yesterday prosecution counsel Michael Chambers told Judge Smyth they would not be appealing her ruling in relation to Mr Murray, the founder of the PSNI's GAA team, who initially had been "promised" by HMRC he wouldn't face prosecution.

However, the 65-year-old may still face a tax tribunal and possible financial penalties over his alleged tax affairs dating back to April 2002.

Mr Murray, who began his policing career with the RUC in 1973, had always denied the five charges against him - two of cheating the public revenue and three of fraud by false representation.

In her 10-page ruling Judge Smyth concluded that Mr Murray's case was "exceptional" and that the case against him be halted given the initial promise made to him, and later conceded by an HM Revenue & Customs official in evidence.

Judge Smyth said that while HMRC had three possible routes to its investigations, including a criminal investigation, the official "accepted the clear assurance that the investigation was being conducted with a view to civil penalty and not with a view to prosecution... and the degree of co-operation will determine the level of penalty".

Judge Smyth later added the "HMRC made an informed, deliberate decision to pursue an investigation by way of a civil procedure and sought the defendant's co-operation by making it clear representation to that effect".

As a result, she added, Mr Murray had "acted in his detriment in circumstances where he has been denied basic legal protection against self-incrimination".

"Nothing has occurred since then to justify a criminal prosecution... the public interest is served by the system of penalties set out in the fact sheets, with recourse to a tax tribunal," the judge said.

The charges against him had alleged that he had "failed to declare liability to income tax in respect of rental monies" for a property at St George's Harbour between April 2002 and April 2007 with intent to defraud. He had also been accused of failing to declare or make payment on his liability for capital gains tax for the sale of the same property between April 2006 and March 2015.

He had been accused of "failing to declare ownership of the same property in a meeting with HMRC officials on August 24, 2012, and of making a false representation to an administrative officer that his main residence was that property, between July 2001 and May 2005".

The fifth and final charge had accused him of making a false representation on August 8, 2014, that the property at St George's Harbour was his main residence with the intention of making a gain for himself or cause loss to HMRC.

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