Sadly, it often feels like we could fill a whole blog with lawyers who go wrong. On 27th January 2017 Simon Kenny, a 60 year old solicitor and Deputy District Judge, along with his partner (in law and life) 47 year old Emma Coates, were imprisoned for theft.
Mr Kenny and Ms Coates ran a firm called CK Solicitors (nb – there’s a completely separate firm in East London called the same which is nothing to do with this firm) in Sussex.
They took somewhere in the region of £692,000 from the firm’s client account. Mr Kenny used the money to keep the firm afloat, but Ms Coates used it to pay off four mortgages as well as “£15,000 on a log cabin and hot tub, and bought a Range Rover” as well as splashing out on a “£27,000 trip to Barbados for her and her friends and expense-laden days at Cheltenham Festival” (according to the Law Society Gazette).
They both had a trial – the defence is unclear, but it seems that they blamed each other. This is rarely a good tactic, and whatever the final details were, the jury did not believe them (or a third person, Steven Hiseman).
The relevant guidelines are the ones for Fraud. It was clearly Culpability A on the basis of the abuse of trust (a solicitor and his client account is about as high a position of trust as there is) and Category 1 Harm.
This gives a starting point (based on a nominal loss of £1,000,000) is 7 years, with a range of 5 to 8.
Against that, the sentences for Mr Kenny and Ms Coates is pretty much what we would expect to see. Although the value is a fair amount less than a million, it is still a deeply unpleasant offence and being a solicitor will increase the sentence for this sort of thing.
For that reason, we would not expect any appeal to be successful.
We don’t know the role that Mr Hiseman played, but presumably it was a lot lesser, which is why he got a much lesser sentence.
At some point as well, there will probably be confiscation proceedings which will see Mr Kenny and Ms Coates lose all of their assets.