TWO men who walked free two years ago after being convicted of an illegal share support scheme at European Leisure were jailed by the Court of Appeal in London yesterday. The appeal judges held that community service orders to which the pair had originally been sentenced were "unduly lenient".
Allowing a challenge by the Attorney General, Sir Nicholas Lyell, backed by the Serious Fraud Office, the judges sent former merchant banker Michael Ward to prison for two years and jailed chartered accountant Jeremy Howarth for 20 months.
Both sentences run from yesterday. Ward (49) former chairman and chief executive of European Leisure, was also disqualified from holding company directorships - for seven years. Howarth (51) the company's former deputy chairman and finance director, was banned for five years.
The judges gave the two men up to 48 hours more freedom to "arrange matters with their families" before they surrender to custody.
Former operations director George Hendry (65), who had been given a 12 month conditional discharge, was sentenced to 12 months, suspended for two years.
Ward and Howarth have each served 220 hours community service and paid compensation for money stolen from European Leisure - £63,000 in Ward's case and £151,000 in Howarth's.
Ward was said to have masterminded a scheme to prop up the share price of the company, which owned discos and clubs, during its bid to take over Midsummer Leisure.
The appeal judges said yesterday today that, in reviewing the sentences, the court had taken into account their previous good character, their exemplary behaviour since the trial and the effect that prison would have on their families.