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Milford Haven: Warrant issued after struck-off solicitor failed to attend court

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Eaves Solicitors: Closed in December 2012

Eaves Solicitors: Closed in December 2012

A WARRANT was issued on Thursday (Jan 22) for the arrest of a solicitor who used money from a dead woman’s estate to bulk up his company accounts.

Simon Griffiths, 52, who ran Eaves Solicitors in Milford Haven was struck-off the roll by a Solicitor’s Disciplinary Tribunal in October 2013. Griffiths failed to attend Llanelli Magistrates’ Court to answer a charge of false accounting, and one further charge of abuse of position.

The chairman of the bench at Llanelli Magistrates’ Court issued a warrant for the immediate arrest of the former lawyer, and the police were informed.

Griffiths, from Pembroke, was arrested and appeared at Haverfordwest Magistrates’ Court today (Jan 23) to confirm his name and address.

Griffiths’ case will now be dealt with at Swansea Crown Court on Jan 30.

Griffiths was hauled before the Solicitors’ Disciplinary Tribunal fifteen months ago, after concerns were raised about his practice at Eaves Solicitors in Milford Haven.

Facing charges: Simon Griffiths

Facing charges: Simon Griffiths

He faced a number of allegations, including failing to fulfill and undertaking and misleading another firm of solicitors, which were found proved. At the beginning of 2011, Griffiths was instructed in the sale of house and undertook the duty to discharge the mortgage before the completion of the sale in April 2011.

However, despite giving repeated assurances to the purchasers’ solicitors, he failed to do so, the tribunal found. “On April 5, a day before completion, Eaves solicitors Mr Griffiths, gave a written undertaking to redeem the Bank of Scotland charge, to provide confirmation of discharge, as the sale was received by the mortgagees,” said Geoff Hudson for the SRA.

He said Eaves Solicitors had received around £100,000 from the sale of another property, but that it would not have been enough to discharge the Bank of Scotland mortgage.

“What sums that had been received were taken for the benefit of the company of which Griffiths was sole director,” Mr Hudson said. He added that one of the accounts ledgers at Eaves did not “meet the required standards” in terms of the information that it contained, and showed money being transferred into the accounts of companies for which Griffiths was the director. The panel was also told that during the sale of the house, Griffiths had twice “misleadingly” wrote to the solicitors of the purchasers to say that he had fulfilled his duty when he had not.

Mr Hudson said: “We say he knew when he wrote those letters because of the pressure and the threat to report to the SRA and to deflect the pressure in misleading them that the mortgage had been redeemed and that the problem was the mortgagee. “We say for a solicitor to mislead another in that way would be seen by reasonable and honest people as being dishonest behaviour.”

The tribunal heard that up until Monday (October 21) the mortgage had still not been discharged. In August 2012 a forensic financial investigation into the running of Eaves solicitors was launched after an allegation surfaced about the transfer of £30,000 from a client’s estate into a company account for which Griffiths was director. The woman, known only as Mrs Ward-Jones, had died and left an estate worth around £150,000 to her two sisters, one of whom, Christine Sheridan, was in a care home. Eaves accounts showed an entry in the July 31 ledger that £30,000 had been paid out as an “interim distribution” to Ms Sheridan’s account.

Financial investigator for the SRA, Oliver Baker, told the hearing that Griffiths’ book-keeper had first raised concerns about practice at the firm. “The firm’s book-keeper pulled me to one side and asked me to look at it as he had not seen supported documentation in relation to the transfer, and I believe he had some concerns about the state of the firm and Griffiths at the time.”

He added that the book-maker was also concerned because he had seen some documentation suggesting the firm might have to close down, but that this was not communicated to him. Mr Baker eventually discovered that although Griffiths had tried to hide the transaction in a paper trail, the sum of £30,000 had in fact gone to an account for Harwood Court Ltd, a company at which Griffiths was the director. “We say for a solicitor to use client monies for his own purposes is seen by reasonable and honest people to be dishonest behaviour,” Mr Hudson said.

Griffiths, who did not attend the central London hearing and was not represented, admitted all of the allegations apart from those relating to account issues. He claimed that at the time of his misconduct he has been suffering from a personality disorder, but the panel found there was not enough evidence to support this. He was found guilty of all the allegations and struck off. Griffiths was also ordered to pay £31,200 in costs.

Finding that Griffith had acted dishonestly, panel chair Dominic Green said: “We have considered this matter carefully on the respondent’s absence.

The seriousness of the misconduct was of the highest level and that a lesser sanction than striking off is not appropriate. “The decision today is that the first respondent is struck off. We have decided that, for protection of the public, and the protection of the reputation of the profession.” Griffiths’ wife, Sarah, and partner firm was initially named as a respondent in the proceedings, but parties reached an agreement with relation to her involvement.

Have you been affected by Eaves Solicitors closure? Please contact The Herald on 01646 45 45 45.

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Five shouts in five days for Lifeboat crews at Angle

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ITS BEEN a really busy week for the crews at Angle with their first tasking to the 39 meter 300 tonne tall ship on Monday evening with engine failure and taking on water.

Crews then paged again in the early hours of Wednesday morning to a 11 meter sailing catamaran becalmed and low on fuel.

The training day Thursday was interrupted just after 12:30 PM with a tasking to a tender with three people on board that had upturned just off St Brides Haven.

Little & Broad Haven Lifeboat was also tasked along with Dale Coastguard.

Little and Broad Haven Lifeboat reached the three casualties and took them to shore where they were passed into the care of Dale Coastguard. Angle Lifeboat was stood down as it was passing through Jack’s Sound.

As the Lifeboat was returning from the shout another tasking request came through. A tanker had spotted an unmanned RIB approximately 10 miles SW of St Ann’s Head. Once on scene, after some investigation the RIB was believed to have come from a mooring and no people were missing. The Lifeboat towed the RIB back to Angle.

The Lifeboat was rehoused shortly after 4:00 PM

The 5th shout for Angle Lifeboat this week.

This was a large multi agency search.

The crew were paged at 09:35 AM to assist Tenby Lifeboats RNLI ALB and inshore Lifeboats to search for a missing person in the water following a report from a fisherman on rocks near Manorbier that he had lost sight of a person that had been rowing a dinghy toward shore and the occupant may be in the water. HM Coastguard Tenby had also been tasked to the search

The dinghy was handed over to Tenby inshore lifeboat crew after being picked up by a Range Safety boat who then brought it into the awaiting police at Manorbier Beach.

Coastguard Rescue Helicopter 187 from St Athan and St Govans Coastguard Rescue Team had now also joined in the search for the missing person.

After several hours searching a man approached police at Manorbier, stating he’d been on the vessel off Manorbier, had got into difficulty and ended up in the water.

With the casualty now safely ashore, all units were stood down at 12:27PM.

Angle Lifeboat then headed to Tenby Harbour to pick up some sustenance, a fizzy drink and a chocolate brownie, before heading back to Angle and rehousing at 2:31PM. The lifeboat was refuelled and given a well earned wash ready for the next tasking.

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A40 closed at Scleddau due to collision between car and motorbike

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EMERGENCY SERVICES have shut the A40 at in Scleddau due to a serious road collision.

The accident happened just before 2pm. The Herald understands that the collision involved a motorcycle and car at a junction near The Gate Inn public house.

Police said: “Emergency services are currently on scene and dealing with the incident. Please find an alternative route if possible. Update to follow.”

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Moley’s Ambassador March to support those who have lost a child

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ON SATURDAY (Jun 19), Andrew Cole (aka Moley) will set off on a 24 hour walk around Pembrokeshire with the aim of doing as many miles in as little time as possible. 

Moley is proud to have recently been made ambassador of the charity ‘2 Wish UponAa Star’ an organisation dedicated to supporting families that have lost a child under 25 years of age.

He will be setting off at 6am in the morning from Neyland and walking all day and night, finishing at 6am the following morning.

2 wish upon a star was set up by Rhian Mannings, who set up the charity after losing her own son.

By celebrating the lives of those lost, and offering support to families through their grief; Rhian and her team offer an essential service to the community and those families who have suffered the devastation of losing a loved one.

Appealing for support from the people of Pembrokeshire he said: “Please give generously to support the wonderful work of Rhian and her team. Also, if you happen to see me in the day, feel free to give me a beep of encouragement’

“If you would like to donate to Moley, and support the charity, you can visit his JustGiving page.”

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/moleycole

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