HARDMAN Ernie Bewick has been ordered to pay £500,000 from his security business empire – or face five years in jail.
Bewick, who was jailed in 1999 for manslaughter, provided security services to almost every pub and club in Sunderland but did not have the correct licence due to his conviction.
Speaking after yesterday’s case, the 57-year-old told the Echo: “I did get in trouble in the past but I have learned and grown from that. That is not what this was about. I genuinely didn’t think I was doing anything wrong.”
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Bewick, of Wheatsheaf Court, Roker, had admitted engaging in licensable conduct as a company director otherwise in accordance with a licence and Judge Roger Thorn fined him £2,000.
His conviction meant prosecutors could then pursue him under the Proceeds of Crime Act, which yesterday resulted in him being ordered by the judge at Newcastle Crown Court to pay back £550,000 of the profits he has made.
Prosecutor Michael Bosomworth said: “The prosecution has always sought to seek proceeds of crime for this is a regulatory offence that affects public order in the Sunderland area.
“The maximum fine is £5,000 but what the prosecution have sought to do is to take away the profits the defendant has earned from that business.
“We could have sought more, but this is to send a message out to those tempted to flout the regulatory regime, given that the maximum fine is relatively modest, that the authorities will take action to deprive people of their profits.”
Prosecutors had originally been aiming for nearer a million but settled on the lesser figure after agreeing Bewick had been paying his tax.
At the court hearing yesterday Bewick was allowed to have back his Continental GT Bentley motor, which had been seized by police from outside his Roker Marina home at the start of the investigation.
But he must pay £550,000, most of which he has in bank accounts which have been frozen by investigators, within six months or face a five year prison sentence in default.
He has to pay the £2,000 fine within a year or face 45 days in jail in default.
Speaking to the Echo after the hearing Bewick said he had learned from his mistakes of committing crimes as a younger man and believed he was running a legitimate enterprise.
He said: “I was working under the impression that as long as I wasn’t playing a hands on role in the business then I was doing nothing wrong.
“I provided security advice for my customers but I didn’t play an active part in removing troublemakers from the premises or anything like that.
“I thought that as long as my role was in the background as managing director then that was alright.
“I never hid the fact I had a company and I was operating under the impression that everything was legitimate and above board.
The court heard Bewick, who was jailed for six years in 1999 for the manslaughter of 44-year-old Tony Waters outside the Eastender pub in the city and was brought before the courts for tax evasion in 2007 after £300,000 was found stashed in suitcases at his home, provided security for up to 100 pubs, clubs and hotels through his firm Bewick Security.
He would charge publicans up to £120 per week to provide advise on security and staffing on doors and allow his company name to be used on plaques and uniforms stating premises were protected by his firm.
His lucrative business became illegal when the Private Security Act 2001, which requires private organisations to have a licence, came into force.
Mr Bosomworth said: “When the act came into force in 2004 he could not and did not seek licensing under the act because he had previously been convicted of an offence of manslaughter and received a prison sentence of six years.
“This meant he could not be licensed.”
Brian Reece, defending, said Bewick’s business was discussed openly during the tax evasion proceeding at the crown court in 2007.
Mr Reece said: “The room was full of police officers, asset recovery agents and the like and nobody noticed that the business was now under statutory regime for licensing.”
The court heard the money due to be confiscated under the Proceeds of Crime Act was to be Bewick’s retirement fund.
Mr Reece said: “He does not have a great deal to look forward to.”