A police sergeant who was accused of accepting bribes from nightclub bosses had ‘sound intentions’ in his own mind, a court heard.
Frank Partridge, 49, who was responsible for licences in the West End between 2013 and 2015, spent nights at strip bars and had his home renovated, jurors have heard.
He was accused of accepting the services of a call-girl – which he denies – and of drinking far too much while he was wined and dined by club bosses, a court heard.
It is alleged he was fitted up for bespoke suits and shirts paid for by the boss of a West End nightclub security firm, while others booked him a five-star family trip to Morocco.
Partridge allegedly accepted gifts including a party at pop star Elton John’s home, the services of a professional escort, tickets to a Metallica concert and a football shirt signed by Wayne Rooney.
Former Sergeant Frank Partridge arriving at Southwark Crown Court in London for a previous hearing
One of the key conspirators was Ryan Bishti, 43, the entrepreneur behind Cirque le Soir, the jury has heard.
Others accused of involvement in the conspiracy include Bishti’s mother Pamela, 66, and Terry Neil, 55, the boss of security firm TSS, who are accused of conspiracy to commit bribery between February 2013 and June 2015.
Neil’s ex-wife Soraya Henderson, 57, and Eamonn Mulholland, 55, and Anna Ginandes, 45, also face the same conspiracy charge.
Opening Partridge’s case his defence barrister Patrick Gibbs, KC, said: ‘It is not in dispute that in the two-and-a-half years when he worked in the Westminster Licencing Unit, Mr Partridge accepted benefits such as food and drink at meals, tickets to events, and in one instance a straightforward present of clothes.
‘His job was a public job. He was in a position of trust, and it therefore mattered how he behaved and how his behaviour looked to others.
‘Although he had a different relationship with each of the individuals involved, those men were his friends to different degrees.
‘For example, Terry Neil he had known for years – they were friends. Crucially he would also have to deal with him through work and it is not in dispute that he got that part of the job badly wrong and by his guilty pleas he has already accepted that oversight.
‘The way he mixed work and friendship in the way he did, by accepting financial advantages, he did not perform his public function in a manner expected by someone operating in his public function.
‘It doesn’t matter that his intentions were sound in his own head for those charges.’
Ryan Bishti, founder of one of London’s most exclusive nightclubs Cirque Le Soir
Others accused of involvement in the conspiracy include Terry Neil, 55
Soraya Henderson is accused of conspiracy to commit bribery – pictured outside Southwark Crown Court previously
Partridge has not admitted bribery in relation to any benefits he received from Mulholland, including Premier League football tickets and the shirt signed by Rooney.
Mr Gibbs told jurors: ‘He has not pleaded guilty in relation to anything concerning Mr Mulholland. We say it is not clear in hindsight that there was anything wrong with that.
‘Whether there was anything improper or unreasonable for a police officer to be doing is for you to decide.
‘What is in dispute is the prosecution claim that Mr Partridge passed, or intended to pass, advantages back to these individuals, that he favoured them, that he deliberately did not act impartially to them, that he understood at the time that there would be a quid pro quo and that he gave these advantages back.
‘We say that he was preserving his impartiality, that he was not letting his friendships affect the way he was treating anybody.’
Inviting the jury to consider the purpose of the police officer’s role in licencing, Mr Gibbs said they should think about ‘whether the police are on one side and the venue and security staff are on the other, or whether they are both on the same side’.
He said: ‘They employed security staff and bar staff, part of the job of all of these people is to create an environment that is safe and keeps customers safe.
‘One question you might want to bear in mind is; is that also what the police want? And if so, what’s the best way to go about that?
‘Should the police treat the venues as all part of the problem or should police work collaboratively with the venues in a way that would help themselves, help the police and held protect customers.
‘In other words, does it all work best if the police and the venues stand apart, or does it work best if venues treat police as part of the solution?
‘If you find that Mr Partridge behaved in a certain way to build rapport and relationships, was that a good idea provided that he didn’t let that cooperation compromise his impartiality?’
Mr Gibbs said it is not in dispute that Partridge enjoyed free off-the-record dining and drank far too much.
Partridge, of Wing, Buckinghamshire, has admitted three counts of bribery, accepting that he received a made-to-measure suit, bespoke shirts and tickets to events, including the Wireless Festival and a Metallica show
He said: ‘Even if he often offered to pay for himself with others, in fact it was almost always the other person who picked up the bill.
‘As for alcohol, he plainly has drunk alcohol at a time when he is booked on duty and he was drinking far too much, far too often. All of which he compounded by keeping no proper record of it at all.
‘But above all, on behalf of Mr Partridge, the thing I am going to ask you to keep an eye on is any evidence that he actually acted in bad faith, or partially to benefit those who the Crown have singled out and sat alongside him in the dock.
‘I suspect that when you examine those instances of benefit the Crown has highlighted, you will find that when receiving the hospitality and private conveniences from those he was policing he never deliberately failed to maintain that impartiality he never deliberately passed a quid pro quo in doing his job.
‘Finally, keep an open mind until you have heard all the evidence.
‘You may find that the key to understanding what has gone on here, and why it has gone on, is not actually about the documents, it’s about the people. You may have no anxiety at all about understanding the people.’
Andrew Ralph, working for the Westminster City Council as head of licencing and regulation, oversaw the 21-person team responsible for enforcing licences at the time Partridge accepted bribes between 2013 and 2015.
Mr Ralph said: ‘Licences were granted for four purposes. The prevention of crime and disorder, maintaining public safety, prevention of harm to children and the prevention of public nuisance.
‘Westminster City Council is a borough in its own right, sandwiched between Kensington and Chelsea and the City of London.
‘Most people would recognise the West End as part of Westminster. It covers about seven-and-a-half square miles.’
Mr Ralph estimated that around 3,300 to 3,500 highly lucrative licences were granted to businesses, including theatres, nightclubs and concerts while Partridge was a sergeant.
‘A recent application during the King’s Coronation came to £63,000.’
Married Partridge, of Wing, Buckinghamshire, has admitted three counts of bribery, accepting that he received a made-to-measure suit, bespoke shirts and tickets to events, including the Wireless Festival and a Metallica show.
But he denies eight counts of conspiracy to commit bribery and five further charges of bribery, between 1 February 2013 and 25 June 2015.
The former officer specifically denies he received the services of a professional escort.
Ryan Bishti, from south Kensington, Pamela Bishti, of Croydon, Ginandes, of Camden, Neil, of Slough, Henderson, of Flackwell Heath, High Wycombe, Mulholland, of Islington, all deny two counts of conspiracy to commit bribery and two counts of bribery during that same period.
The trial continues.
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