Here is what Judge Graham Knowles had to say to Andy Pilley and his co-accused at Preston Crown Court

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THE disgraced football club boss who has just been jailed for 13 years asked his legal team to speak to the judge to excuse him from sitting in the dock.

Andy Pilley and his three business associates, including his sister, have been jailed for a total of 26 years at Preston Crown Court today.

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Addressing each of the four defendants during the sentencing hearing, Judge Graham Knowles QC gave his views on the multi-million pound fraud all four defendants had been guilty of playing a part in.

Pilley, owner of Fleetwood Town Football Club was said to have run a 'salesforce of cold-calling liars and manipulators' who 'duped very large numbers of honest and decent proprietors of sandwich shops, hair salons, small hotels'..

Business owners were duped into long and expensive contracts for their gas and electricity which saw the fraudulent company turnover £100 million.

Pilley, 52, of Wyre Road in Thornton was jailed alongside sister Michelle Davidson, 49, of Holmfield Road, Cleveleys, 52-year-old Lee Qualter from Holmfield Road, Cleveleys and 38-year-old Joel Chapman from Willerby in Yorkshire.

In his sentencing remarks Judge Knowles revealed:

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- Pilley went to prison in 1998 for four months for conspiracy to steal from the post office where you were a counter clerk

- As you come to be sentenced you tell me through counsel that you feel humiliated and your prison cell is small.

- You fight everything and everybody who is against you with your wealth. You are highly litigious.

- Lee Qualter, you agreed to Pilley’s sham arrangements. You were, you said, a puppet and a stooge.

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- Pilley had a client list he referred to as 'the bent selling list'

- Chapman sent Pilley an email saying “You reject my advice because you are crooked. I need to get out or I will be tainted more than I am already”

- Michelle felt disrespected by her brother Pilley

Here is what Judge Knowles said to each defendant as he sentenced them:

Andrew Pilley - Asked whether he needed to sit in the dock

Andrew James Pilley, the removal to prison of your loyal employee, your sometime best friend and your own sister is your doing as well as theirs.

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In 1998 you went to prison for four months for conspiracy to steal from the post office where you were a counter clerk.

Yours could have been a remarkable story of redemption, success, local heroism and philanthropy. Instead it is a sordid tale of squalid lies, greed and fraud.

You told brazen lies to the jury. When confronted with your own words typed with your own hands you complained ludicrously of trial by email.

Missing from your evidence was any conventional sense of honesty. You endlessly repeated, “I detest mis-sell,” but the reason you gave was never that customers should not be cheated, nor that salespeople should be truthful. It was only ever that it was a danger to your business.

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On your first visit to this court, your counsel’s first words were to ask that you should not have to sit in the dock. I refused it on the basis that all defendants are treated equally here. Now as you come to be sentenced you tell me through counsel that you feel humiliated and your prison cell is small.

Here in court you are not special. You are a criminal. You are a fraudster.

You share many traits, many of them unattractive, with other successful fraudsters.

You are a hypocrite who will not tolerate criticism. When the BBC told the truth about you and your crooked businesses you launched a formal complaint.

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You fight everything and everybody who is against you with your wealth. You are highly litigious. There are many examples. I shall give only two. You threatened to sue the Mayburys.

You sued the local authority which prosecutes this case in the High Court, alleging misfeasance in public office, unlawful obtaining of search warrants, particularly by an allegedly unfair presentation of the application, trespass and conversion: BES Commercial Electricity Ltd and others v Cheshire West and Chester Council [2022] EWHC 2162 (QB).

You were entitled to contest the case and to do so in those ways and before the jury and entitled to bring the civil proceedings and none of that inflates your sentence. But it gives an insight into you and it fits with everything I observed of you before you gave evidence, during your evidence, and afterwards.

You called character witnesses. One said you “took round PlayStations as Christmas presents to children – nobody knew” and provided meals to needy families.

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Your counsel elicited from your witness that unlike others, “he doesn’t tell anybody – I’ve never heard him brag or boast about anything that he’s given”.

I think that adducing that evidence caused you little mortification.

There is though no doubt that the money you have given has done great good in Fleetwood. Fleetwood has suffered a terrible decline through no fault of its people, and your investment, for instance at Poolfoot, has been transformational for people of all ages and backgrounds. But now everyone must reckon with the painful truth that much of your wealth came from crime.

I have no reason to think that your only motive for doing good in Fleetwood was to court admiration, but given the huge profits you have made from your crimes it is difficult to regard what you did there as significant mitigation.

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I also bear in mind that whilst your businesses have given jobs to many, those which featured in this case are now tainted by crime, and the corrupt culture has tainted many of the young and impressionable sales people who were recruited.

You are said to be a good friend, a good son and a good father and grandfather and it is no doubt true. Your eldest son speaks of his distress that you will be absent when his second child is born and of much else in his measured letter. Your 18 year-old daughter similarly writes a letter which I have read several times. She gives an overview, with remarkable maturity, of the impact on your family of your going to jail. She says, “I am not trying to challenge or question anything, this is just a letter from the heart of a girl who misses her dad...Please consider this: we are a family with real feelings and real problems”.

As an eminent judge once said in a case on the topic,crime turns lives upside down. Your daughter says much the same later in her letter. I take your family into account, but it can only be to a very limited extent....

I accept that BES was not fraudulent from its beginnings but that is of little account because the sham companies were and BES’s trading throughout the whole indictment period was.

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It is inevitable that some telesales staff on commission will lie. The employer’s remedy is to sack them when they are caught. There is no use in having an elaborate system for monitoring lying if, as in your businesses, there are no real adverse consequences.

You operated a reverse system. The best liars were promoted. When as in a couple of exceptional instances people were sacked the sacking was illusory because they just

moved to new jobs in your other areas of business.

You ran the businesses fraudulently, entirely deliberately. You adopted the lies that were told and tacitly encouraged them.

As the journalist from the BBC found, everybody knew the difference between the paperwork and the reality.

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There were at least three purposes to your compliance department. The main one was

to make sure that the staff used your sales techniques – an improvement on simply having a floorwalker listening in. Another was to lend credence to your claims that BES was a clean business – window-dressing, in other words. A third was to enable you to calibrate the extent and nature of the fraud so that you as an entrepreneur could make the call of risk against reward on the best information.

The compliance department cost you money, but the question is whether there was a net gain and I am sure you considered that there was.

There was legitimate trading too. That again was part of the balance you struck.

You were the author of the fast track scheme.

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You deliberately had your staff deceive customers, the Ombudsman and Ofgem and you yourself deceived Ofgem on a grand scale as to the whole nature of your relationship to the sham companies and as to the call recordings, all whilst posing as a champion of plain dealing and enemy of fraud. Even your top-up of the Ofgem fine is likely to have been meant as an investment intended to turn down the heat.

Sentence: 13 years in prison and disqualified from being a director for 13 years.

Michelle Davison - Subordinate to her brother professionally and personally

Michelle Davidson, you were a director of BES and Commercial Power and owner of 20% of the former and 10% of the latter.

You were a director of a licence holder in a regulated market.

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You received emails telling you that lies were being told, and your brother’s remarks on them labelling them the bent selling list, and saying that he didn’t mind someone posing as a rival to take a deal off that rival.

You read the emails, asking “How long do we give [name]? The shit keeps rolling of his tongue,” and commenting on the same person, “it’s pricks like this that are going to get us reported” – which was indeed the real concern. You gave directions such as, “[name] is to remain on daily compliance same as the other legends”. You noted that the same names kept appearing. You did not demand that they be sacked.

In short, you knew of the lies and you were happy to profit from them so long as risk of being caught was controlled. You knew that the files sent to the Ombudsman were doctored to benefit BES; by your silence you approved that.

You were subordinate to your brother, and not only in your shareholding. In a personal email which you plainly meant sincerely, you complained, “You disrespect me constantly in front of others and treat me like shit”.

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You were at times very forceful with subordinates. You kept all the processes working smoothly.

I doubt you would ever have gone along with the rank dishonesty had the dominant figure not been your brother but once you went along with it you gladly received your 20% and your 10%.

The companies you traded fraudulently also conducted some honest business. You are as culpable as Qualter. Your status as a director in BES, your greater reward and the knowledge you came to have of the sham even out his own involvement in the sham.

I heard medical evidence during your trial and found that you are moderately depressed and anxious. What doctors mean by moderate depression is considerably worse than the word moderate suggests in other contexts. You have been on an anti-depressant for nine years. I also found that you have lumbago with sciatica, meaning back pain that radiates down your leg. You can walk only around 100 yards before the pain in your back, knee and joints restricts you. I allowed you some adjustments during the trial.

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Recent medical evidence tells me that you would, were you not going to prison, be put privately on methotrexate or biologics for the rheumatoid arthritis for your knee; you are on co-codamol for your other pain; you are having injections to ease the mechanical aspect; and you would soon begin counselling and consultation with a psychologist about aspects of your personal history.

The question arising from the mentally disordered offenders guideline, and arising from the common law in respect of your physical health, is whether prison will be harder for you than for the general run of offenders and if so how I have regard to that.

Many prisoners are not in good mental shape; but the combination of mental and physical problems in your case allows me to make a modest reduction in your

sentence.

You have no criminal record.

I have a positive reference on you from a retired police sergeant who has known you since you were an infant, and glowing references from friends of yours.

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More importantly I have deeply moving letters from your mother and your children. It is clear that you are a fine daughter and mother. I will not go into the details of the

difficulties you and your family have faced here in public, but they are some way out of the ordinary. It is clear that your imprisonment will fall very heavily on your family, particularly your children including your 21 year old son notwithstanding his age. I am able to make some further reduction in your sentence with all this in mind.

Sentence: Six years in prison and disqualified from being a company director for nine years.

Lee Qualter - 'a puppet and a stooge'

Judge Graham Knowles QC said: "Lee Qualter, you agreed to Pilley’s sham arrangements. You were, you said, a puppet and a stooge. That means you used your status as a director to conceal his control and did nothing beyond the barest formalities to fulfil your duties as a director.

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"You knew all about and endlessly tolerated the culture of lying, or, in your words, dangerous bullshit, blag and treble bent. You referred to Joel Chapman, head of compliance, as the deal prevention officer.

"You were subordinate to Pilley, your long time friend. Nevertheless, you abused your position of responsibility and trust as a director, you offended over a sustained period, and you had a leading role. Your culpability is high, though some way below Pilley’s.

"I do not consider that the businesses were deliberately targeted for their vulnerability, but the fact that many were in the thick of their first day’s trading made them vulnerable and that is an aggravating feature at the next stage.

"You had bladder cancer and a deal of investigation and treatment. You remain under yearly review although all is well at present.

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"Your history would not predict this offence. You are 53 with no criminal record.

"Your former sergeant major from your days as tank crew says you were a dependable, honest loyal Trooper who would have had a fine career but for a medical discharge.

"A colleague from your next work on the Brent Charlie oil rig describes you as honest, trustworthy, and held in high esteem by management and crew. Your boss there says your conduct was exemplary and your redundancy no reflection on you.

"Lifelong friends and a retired police sergeant speak of a supportive friend with a love of family. Your wife tells me more about that. So does your mother.

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"I bear in mind the burdens that will fall on your family when you are in prison.

"Your own letter to me says, “I fully accept the verdict of the jury...I will never put myself in this position again. I make no attempt to deflect blame from myself and take full responsibility for my actions...I realise that my actions were unacceptable.”

"You apologise to me and to your family. Why you did not plead guilty you do not say.

"There is a measure of remorse in this letter, and the impression I have from it and those from your relatives is that you privately admit your guilt. Your mother speaks more clearly of your remorse and present concern for the victims."

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Sentence: Jailed for seven years and disqualified as director for nine years.

Joel Chapman - Lied to the Mail during their investigation into the company

Joel Chapman, Mrs Maybury was conned into a contract worth about £20,000 to BES by a string of lies.

The salesman concealed his role, pretending to be an impartial figure there to help her, and creating a bogus sense of urgency. She and her husband soon realised what had happened and made a swift complaint. Eventually it came to you in your role as Head of Industry Regulation and Compliance. You asked internally whether the full call recording was available and if so was there anything to hide. All the recordings were to hand.

They were sent to you by an email which read, “Afraid we can’t send these”. You replied, “Worth a try”. You did nothing, despite being the man in charge, to see that the recording was sent – and the obvious inference from the email chain is that you knew your silence would ensure it was not sent. You said you would discuss the matter with the company solicitor and another.

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The Mayburys were then sent two harmless recordings. Those were the scripted contract call and the so-called comfort call with a member of BES staff, a type of call

that was, in my judgement having heard this trial, for the comfort of BES and not that of its customers, being designed to stymie complaints or to prompt a fresh recording

of the contract call which itself would stymie any complaint. These recordings did not silence the Mayburys. They incensed them because the sales call was omitted, or, as

they thought, it had been spliced out. So they persisted.

Some months later, Mr and Mrs Maybury were released from their contract, no doubt through fear or calculation of consequences otherwise. But such was their justified outrage that they still persisted in their demands to be given the recording and the true identity of the lying salesman.

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Mr Maybury asked a series of precise and carefully researched questions. You replied with considerable care and cunning. Your letter was grossly dishonest. You wrote, for instance, that you did not have the details of the salesman “at UK Energy”.

You later wrote to the same effect to Tony Hetherington, a financial journalist with the Mail on Sunday who was on the case. You told the direct lie that only the contractual part of the call is recorded. You argued that it was odd that Mrs Maybury made no complaint in that or the comfort call if there was any truth in what she said.

You suppressed the recording because you knew that it would be catastrophic, even fatal, for BES if Ofgem heard of it. Mr Maybury had copied his email to you to Ofgem.

You did not copy your lying reply to them. The danger was not that Ofgem learned of lies. It was that they learned that there were recordings of lies, and that they had not been told about them.

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You were acquitted of any wider denying of the existence of similar recordings whether to customers, Ofgem or the Ombudsman.

When what Pilley calls the bent selling list was copied to you and you showed an interest in it, Pilley cut you out of it as you soon learned. You tolerated that and continued with your work.

Despite that and your conduct towards the Mayburys you also displayed some virtues and some desire for honesty towards customers in other aspects of your work. You

were clearly pulled strongly in both directions.

The pull to virtue seemed to be gaining the upper hand in July 2016 as emails with a blameless fellow manager about disciplinary matters showed. Then you wrote a tactfully expressed and carefully composed email to Pilley which might reasonably be paraphrased, “You reject my advice because you are crooked. I need to get out or I will be tainted more than I am already”. The very next morning the police turned up to execute the search warrants. The choice you made was to stay in your job. You stayed until your conviction forced your resignation through Ofgem rules.

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As with the Mayburys, when push came to shove you threw your lot in with Pilley.

It is not easy to see why, given what I have read about your character. Nor is it easy to see why you pleaded not guilty. Whether he funded your defence including the attendance of leading counsel for seven months I do not know. What you make of him I do not know. My duty is to sentence you, not to write a psychological profile of you, but I cannot help but remember seeing you as I did on an early day of the trial crossing the road outside this court a step or two behind Pilley, holding an umbrella over his head as the rain fell on yours.

You have no criminal record. You are 38, notably younger than the others.

A pre-sentence report tells me that you still deny the offence, claiming you were merely negligent. That makes the assessment of remorse doubtful. The author rightly observes that the offence was an isolated incident in a career of twenty years. I accept the assessment that you pose a low risk in the future. In fact, I would be astonished if you were ever to offend again. The report points out the obvious negative consequences of imprisonment. It tells me you are fit for unpaid work and could be put under curfew.

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I read that your partner was severely mentally unwell and killed himself. Different people have mentioned different dates but it seems clear that you were dealing with all that at the time at the time you were offending. You do not use it as an excuse. It may, however, have reduced to a degree the fortitude you had to spare and I take it into account.

You began your career at Npower and worked your way up from the bottom with some grace and skill. The Ofgem rules mean you will not be able to return to work in the energy market.

A sometime Npower regulation manager says this offence is completely out of character. Your former line manager says you were the most honest member of her team.

You have outstanding references speaking of your commitment to serving others and doing public good, in the Royal British Legion, Whitby Folk Week, and as a godfather and a friend. The age at which you volunteered with the Royal British Legion and the respect in which you are held are striking. You are said by many writers to be caring, thoughtful, kind, and loyal. You are a good son to your parents who are distraught at your position.

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There is no application for compensation or disqualification.

The costs of prosecuting you are said to be more than £200,000.

The Crown accepts that you have no assets and your parents are paying your living expenses.

Any order for costs would be derisory rather than a token. I make no order.

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In my judgement, despite all your merits and everything else, the only adequate punishment here where the head of regulation has lied to keep a critical, even existential, truth from the regulator is actual imprisonment. I keep the sentence as short as I can.

Sentence: imprisonment for 8 months.