Is is not unusual for students to think that they should be getting higher grades than they are. To that extent, Yang Li, a 26 year old Masters (in Innovation and Technology Management) was not unusual to be disappointed wheln he found out that his dissertation was 3% off the required pass mark of 40%. He was probably not the first student to have begged, pleaded or remonstrated with his tutor.
Mr Li went slightly further however. After being told of the three options (resubmit, appeal or accept the result) by Professor Andrew Grave’s, Mr Li took out £5,000 in cash and put it on his desk, saying “there is a fourth option, you can keep the money if you give me a pass mark and I won’t bother you again.”
He was asked to leave and, at that point, a loaded air pistol fell out of his pocket onto the floor. It appears to have been accepted that this was not a deliberate act of intimidation on Mr Li’s part.
After pleading guilty to an offence under the Bribery Act 2010 and one relating to the air pistol, Mr Li was sentenced to 2 years imprisonment for the former and 12 months for the latter. These are to be run concurrent, so the total sentence is 2 years.
It is not clear what the offence relating to the air pistol was. We would speculate that is was under s19 Firearms Act 1968 – carrying a firearm in a public place. The maximum sentence is seven years.
In sentencing, the Court should ask itself the following six questions (with our suggested answers in italics):
1. What sort of weapon is involved? Possession of a firearm which has no lawful use, such as a sawn-off shot gun, is more serious than possessing a firearm capable of lawful use. [an air pistol is much less regulated than a ‘real’ firearm]
2. What use, if any, was made of the firearm? [as it seems to have been suggested that its display was accidental, none]
3. With what intention, if any, did the defendant possess the rearm? [we are not told, but there does not appear to be a suggestion of any other unlawful purpose]
4. What is the defendant’s record? [again, we are not told, but there is nothing to suggest that Mr Li had ever been in trouble before]
5. Where was the firearm discharged, and who and how many were exposed to danger by its use? [not relevant]
6. Was any injury or damage caused by its discharge, and if so how serious was it? [again, not relevant]
Looking at these questions, it would seem that this offence falls at the bottom end of the scale. The Courts have repeatedly stressed however that all firearms offences are serious and should, unless there is something exceptional, be met with a prison sentence.
Given all of that, the sentence is not that out of line with what would expect (although it does seem a little high). However, you have to look at the sentence ‘in the round’ as it was concurrent with the Bribery charge.
The offence of Bribery is a complicated one, which we will address in a fuller post sometimes. Some guidance can be found here. But, despite the complexities at the margin, this was clearly a case of bribery.
There are no cases that give guidance as to the proper sentence for an offence of bribery, probably because it is so new and can be committed in such different ways. For this reason, it is likely that there will be an appeal. As we’ve discussed before, there is little that would be lost, especially when there is such uncertainty as to what the sentence should be. I don’t give him much chance of success however.