Charges have been dropped against three former executives of G4S’s electronic tagging arm who were accused of defrauding the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) following a 10-year investigation.
G4S Care and Justice Services had provided electronic monitoring services to the government from 2005 to 2013.
The subsidiary of security giant G4S was accused of misleading the MoJ over the extent of its profits from the tagging contract.
In July 2020, the firm accepted responsibility for three counts of fraud and agreed to pay a financial penalty of £38.5m and the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) costs of £5.9m.
Under the deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) with the SFO, G4S could continue to be considered as a government supplier.
The DPA only applied to the potential criminal liability of G4S Care and Justice Services as a company, and not to any current or former employees.
Former managing director Richard Morris, 47, from High Wycombe, ex-commercial director Mark Preston, 51, from Cheshire, and former finance manager James Jardine, 41, from Cumbria had been charged with seven counts of fraud.
The SFO alleged the executives made false representations to the MoJ between 2009 and 2012.
At an Old Bailey hearing before Mr Justice Johnson on Friday, prosecutor Crispin Aylett KC offered no evidence in the case which was due to go to trial in April next year.
Mr Aylett said: “The decision to drop this case is not one that could be taken either quickly nor lightly.”
Following a “careful and comprehensive review” it was decided it was “no longer in the public interest” to proceed with a trial even though there remained a realistic prospect of conviction.
He recognised the impact of the case on the defendants who are of good character, adding: “We regret the way the case has turned out.”
Mr Aylett said: “The defendants have been under suspicion for 10 years and the prosecution are only too aware of the impact the proceedings will have had on them and their families.
“We recognised the potential unfairness of asking that this should go on for a substantial period of further time.”
The judge formally acquitted the defendants of the charges.
Speaking after being cleared of fraud charges, Mr Morris said: “I am delighted this matter has finally come to an end.
“From the outset, the allegations against me were plainly wrong.
“That it has taken 10 years for the SFO to acknowledge as much is a scandal.
“I’d like to thank my family, friends and colleagues for their support. I would also like to thank my legal team who have worked so determinedly to expose the truth and dismantle the SFO’s flawed case.
“I was shocked when I learnt that G4S had entered into a Deferred Prosecution Agreement accusing me of wrongdoing, a wholly untrue allegation.
“This amounted to G4S signing a false confession, plain and simple.
“The outcome of this case shows G4S’s decision to enter into a DPA was unfair and misguided.
“To later learn that the SFO accepted the DPA’s untrue narrative and decided to prosecute me without properly investigating the underlying evidence, was incomprehensible.
“I am of course pleased to be vindicated, but no one should have to go through such an ordeal.
“Without significant changes to the DPA regime and the SFO I fear they will.”
Mr Jardine’s lawyer Joanna Dimmock, said: “After 10 years of delay, mismanagement and misunderstanding of the evidence the SFO have finally recognised this case should never have been brought.
“The SFO knew in 2021 fundamental errors existed which impacted the safety of Mr Jardine’s case. What followed has been a litany of disclosure disasters and breaches by the SFO of over 60 court orders.
“Yet again the SFO has wasted millions of pounds of taxpayers money whilst three men’s lives have been ravaged and put on hold for nearly a decade.
“Mr Jardine is grateful that he can finally put the injustice of the last nine years behind him and begin to rebuild his future with his family.”