Spot-fixing

Mervyn Westfield jailed for four months

Alan Gardner at the Old Bailey

February 17, 2012

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Former Essex cricket Mervyn Westfield arrives for his sentencing at Old Bailey court, London, February 10, 2012
Mervyn Westfield was given little sympathy by the judge © Getty Images
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Mervyn Westfield, the first player in English cricket to be found guilty of spot fixing, was given a four-month prison term at the Old Bailey on a day when the Pakistan international, Danish Kaneria, was named as the alleged go-between who had also approached other players about fixing.

Kaneria, who has not been charged, was alleged in court to have discussed spot-fixing not just with Westfield but with several senior Essex players, while the coach, Paul Grayson, also stated in evidence that he had heard rumours of Kaneria's links with illegal bookmakers. The Essex players were said to have "turned a blind eye" to the Pakistan bowler's remarks in the belief that it was a joke.

Westfield was jailed after pleading guilty last month to the charge of accepting or obtaining corrupt payments. Kaneria, who was arrested along with Westfield in 2010 only for charges to be dropped due to a lack of evidence, could now face an investigation by the ECB.

Passing sentence, Judge Anthony Morris said that a custodial term was necessary "not only to mark the seriousness of the offence but also to deter others in your position from accepting corrupt payments." Westfield, the judge said, could only gain limited credit for a guilty plea as it was entered late in the day and he had lied on several occasions.

"For financial gain you betrayed the trust placed in you to play honestly and to the best of your ability," Judge Morris said. "You were trusted to do so by other members of your team, your employers, the supporters of Essex CCC and the very many followers of the game throughout the world.

"If because of corrupt payments it cannot be guaranteed that every player will play to the best of his ability, the reality is that the enjoyment of many millions of people around the world who watch cricket, whether on television or at cricket grounds, will eventually be destroyed."

"Your [guilty] plea was entered very late in the day. You denied knowledge and lied to police. I have grave doubts whether you are truly remorseful for what has happened."

Immediately after judgement was passed, the ECB announced an interim ban, pending a disciplinary hearing, which bars Westfield from any involvement in cricket with immediate effect. Since his release by Essex for "cricketing reasons" at the end of the 2010 season, he had been playing club cricket for Wanstead in the Essex League.

Westfield, 23, had admitted last month to accepting £6,000 in return for conceding a set number of runs off an over in a Pro40 match against Durham in September 2009. The match was televised in England and parts of Asia.

The key evidence in the case was the testimony of his then team-mate Tony Palladino. After a night out together a few days after the Durham game, the two men returned to Westfield's house in Chelmsford, where Palladino was shown a plastic bag full of £50 notes. The amount was described by Palladino as "the most money he had ever seen."

Westfield allegedly admitted to Palladino that Kaneria was the go-between. According to Palladino, Westfield told him that Kaneria had a friend who would give him money if he agreed to concede a certain amount of runs from an over in a given match. Kaneria allegedly was to receive a fee of £4,000 for securing Westfield's involvement.

Kaneria was accused by Mark Milliken-Smith, Westfield's defence counsel, who also defended Mohammad Amir in the spot-fixing enquiry at Southwark Crown Court last year, of an "abuse of power and position" in relation to the scam. He was described as a man with an "awe-inspiring reputation" at Essex. He had befriended Westfield, one of the fringe members of the squad who earned around £20,000 a year, telling him that he could help him "make money quicker."


Tony Palladino made early inroads into Durham, Essex v Durham, County Championship, Division One, Chelmsford, September 8, 2010
Tony Palladino was the player who eventually raised the alarm © PA Photos
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In August 2009, Kaneria introduced Westfield to two Asian men, initially described as having interests in oil. According to Milliken-Smith, Westfield was then pressurised into accepting a proposal to underperform, with one of Kaneria's associates telling Westfield that he had already placed a bet on the subject. "They would not take no for an answer," Milliken-Smith said.

Westfield's defence suggested that Kaneria had "groomed" Westfield, a young player of previous good character, and that this should spare him from prison. When Milliken-Smith said the player accepted the "devastating effect" his actions had caused, Judge Morris intervened: "It is difficult to accept his total remorse, shame and regret when on the face of it the defendant has lied on a number of occasions about his involvement in this matter." The court was also told that the ICC had warned Kaneria in 2008 about inadvisable connections with an English-based bookmaker called Arun Bhatia.

His behaviour at Essex failed to raise alarm bells, despite Mark Pettini, the club captain at the time, saying in his statement to police that Kaneria had discussed fixing with James Foster, a former England international and the man who was to succeed Pettini, and David Masters. The three later discussed the episode but did nothing about it, on the grounds that Kaneria was joking.

The batsman Varun Chopra, now with Warwickshire, also recalled a phone conversation in which Kaneria had said "there are ways of making money, you don't have to throw a game."

After Westfield's late-night revelation in 2009, Palladino told two junior team-mates Adam Wheater and Chris Wright. When Westfield was confronted by Wheater, however, he denied the story.

By March 2010 - six months after the event - the rumours had reached Masters, one of the senior players, who informed Pettini. Only after instructions in 2010 from the players' union, the Professional Cricketers' Association, to report any suspicious behaviour did attitudes change. The matter was reported to the ECB and Westfield was arrested by Essex police. Fearing for the future of his career, he denied the charges right up until December 2011, when he had a change of heart, prompting his guilty plea in January.

On passing sentence, Judge Morris also issued a confiscation order for the sum of £6,000. Westfield was paid despite failing to give up the agreed 12 runs - Durham managed just to score 10 from the over.

The charges against Westfield, brought under the 1906 Corruption Act, eventually set the precedent for prosecutions brought against three Pakistan internationals, Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Amir last year.

The sentence means Westfield is the fourth cricketer to be jailed in recent months. Butt, Asif and Amir were given prison terms in November after being convicted of taking part in a plot to deliberately bowl no balls in a Test against England in August 2010. The 19-year-old Amir was released from a young offenders institute last month but while he can still harbour hopes of resurrecting his career, Westfield's future influence on cricket is likely to be only as a deterrent to others.

For the full judge's remarks click here (external site)

Alan Gardner is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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