By Melvyn Howe, PA
A financial journalist who pocketed nearly £41,000 by "cynically manipulating" the stock market has been jailed for six months.
James Hipwell, 39, whose health is threatened by a failing kidney, used the City Slickers column in the Daily Mirror to ramp shares in a "tip, buy and sell" scam.
For months, he repeatedly purchased low priced stocks, recommended them to readers and then quickly sold them as values soared. Fellow conspirator Anil Bhoyrul, 38, from Sutton, Surrey, who co-wrote the column and made £15,000 from his dealings, admitted breaching the Financial Services Act between August 1999 and February 2000 and was sentenced recently to a 180-hour community service order.
Hipwell, of Caledonian Road, Holloway, north London, was convicted of the same charge at a trial at London’s Southwark Crown Court. But his sentence was adjourned after Mr Justice Beatson said he wanted an up-to-date medical report into problems the defendant was suffering as a result of a kidney transplant from his brother several years ago.
The judge, sitting at Luton Crown Court, was told the journalist’s life expectancy was not good. Defence QC Philip Hackett said that according to a consultant the transplant was failing and was likely to last for only another three to six years. As a result, his life expectancy could be reduced by as much as half.
But the judge said nothing he had heard had swayed him from his original opinion that he deserved immediate imprisonment.
"The punishment of this court is not a punishment on you for being unwell, but it is a reflection of the conclusion of the jury.
"The sentence of this court is six months as I am still of the view that only a custodial sentence can be justified in this case," he added.
Outside court, Hipwell’s solicitor, Harry Travers of BCL Burton Copeland, read a statement on behalf of his client.
In it, the journalist said: "I accept it was an error of judgment not to disclose that I had bought shares I tipped and for that I apologise unreservedly.
"However, I always believed, and the evidence at the trial proved that the column was accurate and investors who followed it did make a profit."
He insisted he had never intended to "mislead" anyone and maintained all his share dealings had been conducted openly in his own name with money from his own bank account.
He added: "I am actually relieved to be nearing the end of this episode and looking forward to when I can get on with the rest of my life."
The solicitor, who has already lodged an appeal against conviction, said a similar move was being made in respect of the sentence.
"We think this is an excessive sentence, wrong in principle and also surprising in view of the fact that the evidence showed incontrovertibly that any investor who had followed the tips overall would have made a handsome profit."
He added papers would be lodged with the High Court within the next week.