Belfast Telegraph

Top PSNI officer's 'relief' as tax affairs trial collapses

PSNI Superintendent Gerry Murray at a road safety launch
PSNI Superintendent Gerry Murray at a road safety launch

By Michael Donnelly

Police chief Gerald Murray has spoken of his "relief"' that the prosecution are not challenging a legal ruling stopping his trial for alleged tax evasion and fraud.

In a statement issued through his solicitor Mr Murray, who was 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 - stop' his Belfast Crown Court trial on the grounds it would amount to an "abuse of process".

Prosecution counsel Michael Chambers told Judge Smyth he would not be appealing her ruling in relation to the Superintendent, 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, with an address of c/o of PSNI, may still face a tax tribunal, and possible financial penalties over his alleged tax affairs dating back to April 2002.

Superintendent 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, in her view, Superintendent 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 HMRC official in evidence.

She told the court that while HMRC had three possible routes to their investigations, including a criminal investigation, and in her ruling Judge Smyth said: "furthermore she accepted that 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 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, 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 charges against him had alleged, "failing 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, and failing to declare or make payment on his liability for capital gains tax in respect of the sale of the same property between April 2006 and March 2015.

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 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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