Oh dear. We have had dodgy lawyers before unfortunately. Too many of them really – here’s a recent example and QC who got jailed, someone dodgy who impersonated a lawyer, a law lecturer and a CPS clerk who is serving life for murder – sadly there’s plenty more.
But on 15th November 2017 there was another example to add to the ‘rogues gallery’; Keith Shaw.
Mr Shaw was a solicitor who was practicing (seemingly in property law) in the North of England. He lived in Whitby in Yorkshire and the fraud appear to relate to planning applications that he made for land near where he lived.
Between 2012 and 2015, Mr Shaw put in letters that purported to be from local residents, but he had actually made himself. He also claimed £2,747 for a surveyor’s report that he claimed to have paid, but did not go ahead.
He pleaded guilty to several charges of fraud relating to this. The case was heard in Westminster Magistrates’ Court, presumably because of his role as a Judge.
Mr Shaw was sentenced to 20 weeks, but this was suspended for 2 years on condition of undertaking 200 hours unpaid work in the community. He was ordered to pay compensation in the sum of £2,747 (presumably for the surveyor’s report), costs of £7,285 (quite a lot of money for a Court case).
Did Mr Shaw get let of lightly because he was a Judge? The starting point for the Court would have been the Sentencing Guidelines for Fraud (see page 6). It’s not really a ‘guidelines’ case; mainly because of the fact that the real issue was not the financial gain relating to the survey.
But if you look at it as a High Culpability case (on the basis that Mr Shaw was abusing his position as a lawyer), then the starting point would be 36 weeks custody. Given the guilty plea and his good character, the sentence of 20 weeks seems bang on the money. And given everything, and everything that he has lost, it would seem right to suspend Mr Shaw’s sentence.
Mr Shaw is only 37 still. He was appointed as a Deputy District Judge in the Magistrates’ Court in 2013 at the very young age of 32 (here, from happier times, appears to be the announcement of his appointment).
As for Mr Shaw’s future, this will end his judicial career (if he still has one) and will also end his career as a solicitor.
He’s not the first part time Judge to get into trouble with the law. Constance Briscoe (Crown Court Recorder) and Michael Shrimpton (immigration Judge) are two recent (and pretty notorious) examples. But sadly he probably will not be the last.