Sunday, February 21, 2016

Instructor defrauds recruits . . . why was the case not tried in the Court Martial?

The Northern Echo reports that
a gurkha corporal in charge of young Nepalese recruits has appeared in court charged with fraud. Surya Prakash Hanggam, 35, who was a corporal with Royal Gurkha Rifles, acting as an instructor for young recruits at the Infantry Training Centre in Catterick Garrison early last year, has pleaded guilty to committing fraud by false representation in using his position to take money from the trainees. Mr Hanggam, now based at Beckwith Green in Folkestone, Kent, appeared at Northallerton Magistrates’ Court on Monday, February 15 and he will be sent to Teesside Crown Court on Monday, March 14 at 10am for sentencing. Mr Hanggam is charged with taking £18,189.99 from 17 victims between February 28, 2015 and March 31, 2015 at Catterick Garrison. An Army spokesman said he returned to his unit in Kent in May 2015.

He was granted unconditional bail until Monday, March 14. The Royal Gurkha Rifles currently have a jungle role battalion permanently based in Brunei and a light role battalion in the UK.
Given the close military nexus and the even greater breach of trust involved when an instructor defrauds recruits under his care this begs the question. Why on earth was this not prosecuted by the Service Prosecuting Authority in the Court Martial? So often on this blog we ask where the military nexus is but here it is as clear as possible.

A look at the Definitive Sentencing Guidelines which will be used in the Crown Court this Corporal will be looking at a sentence of between 26 weeks and three years imprisonment. The starting point is likely to be near the top end of the scale given the sums involved and the serious breach of trust. The Corporal will then be entitled to a one third discount for his early guilty plea. It is worth noting that sentences of under two years can be suspended but that is a matter for the Judge. I would expect either an administrative discharge or possibly even separate proceedings in the Court Martial leading to a dismissal. If further proceedings are brought I would expect them to be brought under s.19 Armed Forces Act 2006 (Conduct prejudicial to good order and discipline). 

Thanks to Anthony Paphiti for bringing this to my attention on Twitter.

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