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Former sports centre director fined for withholding information in pensions probe

Ref: PN24-24

Issued: Friday 31 May 2024

A Sussex businessman has been ordered to pay a total of £15,000 for withholding information legally required in an investigation by The Pensions Regulator (TPR).

Lee Bartholomew, 45, of Lockside, Tonbridge, Kent, former company director of 1066 Target Sports Ltd in St Leonards, East Sussex, appeared at Lewes Crown Court on Friday 31 May 2024, in a prosecution brought by TPR. He was fined £7,500 and ordered to pay costs of £7,500.

At a previous hearing at Lewes Crown Court on Friday 26 April 2024, Bartholomew pleaded guilty under section 77(5) of the Pensions Act 2004 to intentionally and without reasonable excuse suppressing documents he was required to produce under section 72 of the Pensions Act 2004.

TPR formally requested the information on 10 June 2020 as part of an investigation into allegations of fraudulent evasion relating to employee pension contributions. The court heard that Bartholomew intentionally failed to provide the information required by TPR by the deadline of 8 July 2020, suppressing the material sought without reasonable excuse.

Following his guilty plea to the charge under s.77(5) Pensions Act 2004, TPR is no longer prosecuting Mr Bartholomew for fraudulent evasion of his duty to pay money deducted from the salaries of his employees as pension contributions into a workplace pension scheme within a prescribed period under section 49 of the Pensions Act 1995.

In his ruling, His Honour Judge Mooney told the defendant: “You took the decision to suppress, i.e. deliberately not provide, documentation you should have done because you knew to do so would alert the Regulator that you weren’t paying money where you should have done.” The judge added that as this hadn’t been done, he could not know where the money went at that time.

He continued: “This caused a degree of distress to the people affected, as the money they thought was going into their pensions didn’t. It caused them real concern.”

Judge Mooney said Bartholomew's decision not to provide the information required a sentence that serves as a punishment and also as a deterrent to others from doing the same thing, thereby emphasising the importance of regulatory compliance. 

Joe Turner, Head of Automatic Enrolment Compliance and Enforcement at The Pensions Regulator, said:

“This case sends a clear warning that we do not hesitate to prosecute companies or individuals if they refuse to give us the right information when requested and/or try to frustrate our aim to protect pension savers.

“We attempted to use our civil powers to put things right in this case, but this was ignored. Anyone refusing to comply with our requests for information without good reason should take note that they could find themselves in court and with a criminal conviction.”

Notes for editors

  • The Pensions Regulator has the power to compel information from individuals and corporates under Section 72 of the Pensions Act 2004.
  • Under Section 77(5) of the Pensions Act 2004, any person who intentionally and without reasonable excuse alters, suppresses, conceals or destroys any document which he is or is liable to be required to produce under section 72 or 75 is guilty of an offence.

TPR is the regulator of workplace trust-based pension schemes in the UK. Our statutory objectives are to:

  • protect members’ benefits 
  • reduce the risk of calls on the Pension Protection Fund
  • promote, and to improve understanding of, the good administration of work-based pension schemes
  • maximise employer compliance with automatic enrolment duties
  • minimise any adverse impact on the sustainable growth of an employer (in relation to the exercise of the regulator’s functions under Part 3 of the Pensions Act 2004 only)

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