One of the Daily Mirror’s City Slickers, James Hipwell, jailed for six months after he made nearly £41,000 by dealing in shares tipped in his column, today won the go-ahead to appeal his sentence.
However, he must stay in jail for the time being.
Mr Justice Langstaff refused him bail on the ground that a prison sentence was justified for a crime which “attacks the integrity of journalism”.
Hipwell, 39, from Holloway, north London, was convicted of conspiracy to breach the Financial Services Act in a “tip, buy and sell" scam.
The court heard today that he is expected to be eligible for release on a tag some time in March. However, the judge expedited his appeal hearing in the hope that it will be scheduled before he is released.
His counsel Graham Brodie had argued that he should be released on bail, as a result of the unlikelihood that the appeal will be heard before the end of March, and as a result of Hipwell’s severe kidney problems, which require frequent hospital visits and which have meant he has been unable to serve his sentence in an open prison, as intended, due to inadequate healthcare facilities at open prisons.
However, the judge refused bail, saying: “My view remains that, for the reasons given by the sentencing judge and because the offence attacks the integrity of journalism, it is one which would have crossed the custody threshold.”
But he said that he did not see Hipwell’s grounds of appeal as “unarguable”, and granted permission for a full appeal, adding that it would be the first time the Court of Appeal could offer guidance on sentencing for this kind of crime.
Brodie had argued that this was an offence for which a financial penalty, or a community sentence – like the one handed to Hipwell’s colleague and co-defendant Anil Bhoyrul, who was given a 180-hour community punishment order – was more appropriate for this offence.
The custody threshold was not reached, indeed approached, in this case,” he said, adding that the disparity in sentence between Hipwell and Bhoyrul was “hard to justify”. He added that, even if the custody threshold had been reached, it should have been suspended in the circumstances of Mr Hipwell’s poor health.
He said that his client would, in the short-term, face “particularly invasive” treatment in the form of dialysis, which will require him to make three lengthy hospital visits a week. He also argued that his client had served his sentence at a more secure prison than intended, as a result of inadequate healthcare facilities at available open prisons, and was currently spending 22 hours a day behind bars at Bedford Prison. In consequence, he said that the sentence he was serving was “more punitive” than intended.