Jail for solicitors who stole £925,000

Three Kent solicitors were jailed for a total of 10 years last week after being convicted of stealing £925,000 of their clients' money to fund a champagne lifestyle.

Former North Kent Coroner Lionel Skingley, who admitted the charges, received three years, while his partners Robert Hammond and Geoffrey Hufton each received sentences of three and a half years.

His Honour Judge Pontius, sitting at Knightsbridge Crown Court, said there had been “a flagrant and repeated abuse” of the trust placed in them by their clients. He said their actions had “brought disgrace and shame, not only on themselves but to their families and the profession”. Judge Pontius added that clients' funds were held in trust by solicitors and were “sacrosanct”.

The conspiracy, which has cost the Solicitors Compensation Fund almost £1.5m, came to light in 1993 following an investigation carried out by the Law Society.

The court was told that Hammond and Hufton, who have being repaying the debt since 1993, had come under the influence of Skingley who held effective power in the firm.

Peter Cooper QC, representing Skingley, conceded that his client's drawing of funds had been “wholly excessive” but said that he had not been born with a silver spoon in his mouth. “He came from humble beginnings,” said Cooper.