Bid to increase £400,000 tax cheat’s ‘unduly lenient’ sentence

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A builder and pub owner spared jail for cheating the revenue out of more than £400,000 in unpaid taxes is facing a legal bid to have his sentence increased.

The Public Prosecution Service (PPS) has referred Bartley Murphy’s case to the Court of Appeal, claiming the suspended term of two years and three months he received was unduly lenient.

Senior judges have listed the challenge for a hearing later this month.

Murphy, 53, from Ardglass Road in Downpatrick, Co Down, pleaded guilty to a single count of cheating HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) out of taxes over an eight-year-period.

He had originally denied the charge when the bill he faced stood at £1.2m.

That figure was reduced to £422,000 amid the engagement of a forensic accountant and an agreement reached with tax authorities.

A previous court was told Murphy’s offending, between 2007 and 2015, had been unsophisticated.

A cheque was also lodged for the full amount owed following the sale of his family home and a £75,000 brewery loan.

Last month a judge at Downpatrick Crown Court imposed a £15,000 fine and suspended the prison term for a period of three years.

His decision was based on the businessman’s guilty plea and the impact of immediate imprisonment on sub-contractors working for him.

Now lawyers representing the PPS have launched a challenge to the sentence.

Liam McCollum QC told the Court of Appeal on Tuesday: “We are looking for a date this term to deal with the matter.”

With counsel for Murphy seeking transcripts of the evidence from a forensic accountant in the case, Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan confirmed the case will be heard on June 21.