Wednesday, 4 June 2014
Crimes (Match-fixing) Amendment Bill
A New Zealand public lawyer, Mai Chen, has recently written an article in the New Zealand Herald explaining a bill which would make match-fixing a specific criminal offence. In particular, it seeks to outlaw
"any act or omission done with intent to influence a betting outcome of a sporting competition or dog race other than for tactical or strategic sporting reasons"
It is hoped that the bill will "send a signal" about New Zealand's commitment to end match-fixing. Chen further explains:
"While the Racing Board's betting rules permit it to cancel sports bets if it considers there is or may be a risk of corrupt betting, and to monitor betting to prevent corruption, those rules apply only to betting conducted in New Zealand with the Racing Board. Similarly, while match-fixing may be an offence under the Crimes Act or the Secret Commissions Act, there is no explicit provision prohibiting match-fixing and, to date, no New Zealand prosecutions. Nor is it explicitly prohibited in our Gambling Act or Racing Act."
This is all to the good, though no-one should be under any illusions that it will be a panacea to stop the horrendous threat to cricket in the form of the match-fixing that we have all known about since the Pakistani scandals of the 1990s and the Hansie Cronje debacle of 2000, and which has not gone away in the years since.
I am not up to date with New Zealand criminal law anymore, but would observe that in England at least, any proof of spot fixing or match fixing is already a serious criminal offence, as illustrated by the jailing of three Pakistanis earlier this decade. They were convicted of conspiracy to accept corrupt payments and conspiracy to cheat, and sentenced to terms of imprisonment. They were also subjected to disciplinary proceedings and given fines and suspensions. I wonder how much difference it would have made to them, or anyone else, if there was a specific offence under which they might have been charged rather than general fraud/conspiracy offences which apply to conduct much wider than sport. The last Labour government in the United Kingdom passed literally thousands of new offences into law, without a measurable improvement in public behaviour. Many seemed to be the result of wishful thinking, or grandstanding, or work-creation, or all of the above.
Secondly, any potential criminal is much more concerned about the chances of being caught. A specific offence will not alter that.
Thirdly, criminal law does not normally extend beyond a state's boundaries. If all the conduct occurs overseas (say, a game on the subcontinent and payment in the Middle East), then presumably any New Zealand player involved could not be prosecuted at home.
Finally, the bill if passed will not be retrospective (it is an almost watertight rule of criminal law that it is never retrospective in operation), and so any of the current rumours and allegations will not be covered.
All that said, we can only wish the authorities well, in New Zealand and everywhere else, in continuing to fight against the worst threat to cricket in its history.
Needless to say, I have covered match fixing in rather more detail in my forthcoming book.