This week saw Tom Hayes, a city trader, sentenced to an eye watering 14 years following his conviction for rigging the Libor interest rates. The sentence is made up of a nine-and–a-half year sentence for offences committed under one employer and four-and-a-half years for offences under another employer when the period offending was much shorter.
Tom Hayes was convicted of eight counts under the Fraud Act 2006. If the offences had been committed today he would probably have been prosecuted under The Financial Services Act 2012. The interesting thing here is that under the former Act the maximum sentence for each offence is 10 years with a starting point of seven years for offences with losses in excess of £1m. However, under the latter Act the maximum sentence is seven years with no published guideline starting point. This begs the question, would Tom Hayes have received a lesser sentence if his offences had been committed today?
When put into context of offences involving serious violence, terrorism, sex, drugs and firearms, 14 years is a lengthy custodial sentence. Tom Hayes needs to expect to serve seven years behind bars and a further seven years at risk of being re-called back to prison by his probation officer if he fails to comply with his licence.
Can we, and should we, expect city criminals to serve a similar custodial sentence to those that cause serious violent and sexual harm? Double figure sentences are reserved for the most serious offences and prolific offenders. For example, those who pose a serious risk to the lives of others and who have a history of offending without rehabilitation. The fact that an offender has been greedy, morally bankrupt, corrupt, and brought a profession into disrepute does not normally form such a large part of the sentencing exercise.
Whilst there is absolutely no doubt that harm was caused to those impacted by this sort of dirty dealing it is perhaps incomparable to the physical and psychological harm and hindrance to national security that has been caused by Mr Hayes’ new close neighbours in prison. It will be interesting to see whether or not Mr Hayes’ legal team will launch an appeal against this sentence.