Illness delays Vernon hearing

A former Shakespeares consultant suspected of stealing more than u300,000 from the Birmingham firm claims he is too ill to face a Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal hearing.

Solicitor John Vernon, 61, who worked at Shakespeares for more than 30 years, failed to turn up for the hearing last week, citing ill health. The hearing was adjourned for two months.

Vernon, of Belbrough-ton, Stourbridge, is currently under investigation by the West Midlands Police Fraud Squad after Shakespeares identified a number of accounting irregularities within a limited number of client accounts under his responsibility.

The Lawyer exclusively reported the alleged theft in February this year.

Vernon has already had civil proceedings brought against him by Shakespeares which resulted in a substantial interim payment order – believed to be around u350,000 – being made.

The former consultant, who specialised in property and trust work, was dismissed by Shakespeares after the substantial shortfall in the client accounts was discovered in February last year.

Shakespeares managing partner, Andrew Argyle told The Lawyer that the suspected theft came like “a bolt out of the blue”.

After the irregularities were uncovered, he says, an internal investigation was undertaken, with assistance from PricewaterhouseCooper, and new accounting systems have been introduced into the company.

Vernon will appear before the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal at a new hearing on June 8.