Update, 8 May 2009: The Westralians have been listening to Justice of Appeal Nettle. Someone over there has thrown a 41 year old Margaret River solicitor into the slammer for almost 8, minimum of nearly 5. He stole almost $900,000 from an elderly man who lived alone on a farm.
Original post: A solicitor was convicted of forgery and given an enforced break from practice of a year. Years later, he stole $100,000 in his trust account from a client. He paid debts and took his family on holidays to Greece and Bali. He confessed as soon as a routine audit of his trust account revealed a discrepancy. He handed in his practising certificate to the Legal Services Board’s delegate, and a receiver was appointed to his practice which was sold. It sounds like the receiver might have been a bit sloppy, because the solicitor remained a signatory to a client account.
A week after being interviewed about the theft of $100,000, (‘amazingly’, as the trial judge put it) he stole another $43,000 from another client which he used to stave off bankruptcy at the suit of the Tax Man. When interviewed about that theft, he lied to the police, asserting that he had the client’s permission to withdraw the money.
The trial judge locked the solicitor up for 6 months and suspended an additional year of imprisonment. The DPP appealed against what it said was the manifestly inadequate sentence. Justice of Appeal Nettle, who warned last year on the need for condign punishment to express society’s special revulsion at lawyers’ theft from their trust accounts, was again party to a judgment in the matter of DPP v George B  VSCA 29 making the same point, and would have increased the sentence on appeal but for certain factors peculiar to this offender: Continue reading “6 months jail for lawyer thief ‘remarkably merciful’”