Spot-fixing May 31, 2012

Majeed and Westfield appeals rejected

Mazhar Majeed, the London-based cricket agent, and the former Essex fast bowler Mervyn Westfield - the first cricketer in England to be jailed for spot-fixing - have lost their appeals against their convictions.

The Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge, and two other judges at the Court of Appeal in London, upheld both convictions at the Court of Appeal on Thursday.

The legal challenge centred on the correct interpretation of gambling and betting legislation and its failure has ensured that English cricket retains a robust law to deal with any future match-fixing scams.

Majeed and Westfield were involved in two separate cases but their appeals were heard simultaneously as they involved the same point of law.

Majeed, 36, from Croydon, South London, was sentenced in November to two years and eight months after pleading guilty to conspiracy to cheat and conspiracy to make corrupt payments. He was the agent involved in the spot-fixing scandal involving three Pakistan cricketers in a Test at The Oval two years ago.

Westfield, 24, from Chelmsford, Essex, was sentenced to four months in prison at the Old Bailey in February and has since been released. He pleaded guilty to one count of accepting or obtaining a corrupt payment to bowl to instructions in a CB40 tie between Essex and Durham at Chester-le-Street in September 2009.

The appeal was based upon the argument that the scam was not aimed directly at the Pakistan Board or, in Westfield's case, against Essex, but that the way they performed "was personal to them."

In rejecting the appeal, Lord Judge referred to the codes of conduct operating in both Pakistan and Essex cricket that made it a contractual obligation not to accept bribes to influence the conduct of a match.

The importance of these codes of conduct in refusing the appeal is bound to lead to a re-examination of their robustness in all forms of professional cricket.

Lord Judge said of the codes of conduct: "There could not be any clearer indication of the simple proposition that the Pakistan Cricket Board regarded the conduct of the players on the field as integral to its affairs and business, and indeed that their play was integral to them. Precisely the same considerations apply to Westfield and Essex County Cricket Club. That was the entire point of the agreement that he should play on behalf of the county to the best of his ability. "

In the case involving Majeed, three Pakistan cricketers also received custodial sentences at London's Southwark Crown Court. Salman Butt, the captain, was jailed for two-and-a-half years for his role as the orchestrator of a plot to bowl deliberate no-balls in the 2010 Lord's Test against England. The two fast bowlers involved - Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir - were sentenced to 12 and six months respectively and have already been released.

Mark Milliken-Smith QC, on behalf of Majeed, further submitted that there was no jurisdiction to try Majeed under the Gambling Act 2005 as the gambling was both unlawful and took place abroad.

Lord Judge termed it "a remarkable submission" stating: "The "fix" was organised in England, the matches which were the target of the "fixing" took place here, and the rewards for participating were also paid here."

However, Lord Judge conceded: "Interesting questions of territoriality might arise if it were ever to be the case that an individual or individuals who were living abroad and placed their bets abroad on the basis of the cheating which was organised and took place here were ever to be prosecuted in this jurisdiction.

"We need not address them. We are not dealing with the criminals abroad who took advantage of the cheating organised in this jurisdiction. We are dealing with the criminals who participated in it here. The respective offences of conspiracy against Majeed and cheating against Westfield were properly prosecuted."

David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo