The Court of Appeal has held that an accountant member of a multi-disciplinary firm of solicitors was liable as an accessory for dishonestly assisting breaches of trust, overturning the High Court’s decision to the contrary: Group Seven Limited & Ors v Notable Services LLP & Ors  EWCA Civ 614.
The appeal turned on the question of whether the relevant individual’s conduct was dishonest, applying the objective test for dishonesty most recently confirmed as applicable by the Supreme Court decision in Ivey v Genting Casinos UK Ltd  UKSC 67 (see our previous blog post here). Under that test, the question is whether the defendant’s conduct was dishonest according to the “(objective) standards of ordinary decent people”. It is irrelevant whether the defendant appreciates that what he has done is, by those standards, dishonest.
The Court of Appeal found that the High Court had erred in its approach to assessing the relevant individual’s “blind-eye” knowledge, concluding that he had in fact consciously decided to refrain from taking any step to confirm the true state of affairs for fear of what he might discover. The decision shows that the court is readily prepared to find the presence of blind-eye knowledge where, considering the defendant’s accompanying dishonest behaviour, the court held that he must have harboured clear suspicions.