On 17th October 2013 Alan Crickmore, a coroner (a Judge who is responsible for ascertaining the cause and circumstances of a death, as well as, for historic reasons, dealing with treasure trove) pleaded guilty at Southwark Crown Court to 24 counts of fraud. He was released on bail to the 28th November when he will be sentenced. He will be going to prison and is liable to get hammered by the Court.
The total value of the thefts is about £2 million. This is obviously a lot of money. There are two massively aggravating features. This was not just a theft in breach of trust, it was an extremely serious breach of trust because (1) Mr Crickmore stole from the dead which the Courts will take a dim view of and, more importantly, (2) being a Judge and a solicitor, he was in a position of extremely high trust and power. We don’t have full details, but the frauds came about due to his work as a probate solicitor, rather than as a coroner.
The Sentencing Guidelines for Theft will probably apply (although the case was one of fraud). The highest category for theft in breach of trust is theft of more than £125,000 (or more than £20,000 if there is a ‘high degree of trust’). This gives a starting point (after a trial) of 3 years, with a range of 2-7 years.
A similar result will come from application of the Fraud Guidelines – there are slightly higher guidelines (6 years starting point, with a range of 5-8 years) for confidence fraud, which this case would appear to be most closely related to.
Mr Crickmore’s theft was right at the top end of the scale. It would not be a surprise if the Court takes the 7 year point (the maximum sentence for theft) as a starting point, before reducing it for a plea of guilty. It is not clear whether full ‘credit‘ will be given, but even so, this would indicate a sentence of about 4½ years (unless there is some very unusual features).
He will also face confiscation proceedings in an attempt to recover some, or all (or more) of the money that he has taken. He will lose his job as a coroner and will be struck off by the SRA (that supervises solicitors) – a high fall from grace. We will return to the case when Mr Crickmore is sentenced, when there should be more facts available.