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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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Green hydrogen electrolyser and car refueler arrive at Milford Waterfront

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PEMBROKESHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL says it is leading the way in renewable energy with a collaborative £4.5 million project exploring the vital role hydrogen could play in a decarbonised energy future.

Milford Haven : Energy Kingdom (MH:EK) is a two-year ‘detailed design’ project, completing in 2022, exploring what a renewable energy based Smart Local Energy System could look like for the Milford Haven Waterway – including the concept of a Hydrogen Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle (HFCEV).

The aim is to gather detailed insight into the whole energy system around the Waterway, looking at how to make, using and distributing hydrogen financially viable within the different energy sectors of buildings, industry, power and transport.

The MH:EK team will investigate the potential of local renewable energy, including solar, onshore wind, future offshore wind and biomass for decarbonised gas transition.

One element of the project involves a consumer trial of two Riversimple ‘Rasa’ HFCEV’s. The MH:EK team is building a green hydrogen electrolyser and refueler on Milford Waterfront – and this will be used to produce green hydrogen on site to fuel the two trial HFCEV’s.

The project will demonstrate the practical application of hydrogen technology. The aim is to test the feasibility of two hydrogen powered Rasa cars. They will be built by Welsh company Riversimple, and operate as fleet cars in and around the Haven.

Pembrokeshire County Councillor Cris Tomos, Cabinet Member for the Environment and Welsh Language, said: ‘We welcome the progress made by the partnership, particularly in view of recent news that new petrol and diesel cars will not be sold in the UK after 2030. This innovative approach will help us to switch to a low carbon future and promoting sustainable transport as we respond to the climate change emergency.’

Work is underway and should be operational for the trial in July. A hydrogen-ready smart hybrid heating system is also being designed and will be installed and tested in an operational Port building.

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Council’s building maintenance teams to resume non-emergency responsive repairs

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THE HOUSING Building Maintenance teams within Pembrokeshire County Council are now able to re-commence non-emergency responsive repairs to customers’ homes around the County.

Lockdown has prevented tradesmen and women from entering homes to carry out anything other than emergency repairs for many months but the PCC Contact Centre is now able to take calls from customers to request a non-emergency service in their homes once more.

The Contact Centre receives around 38,000 building maintenance related service requests each year and even throughout lockdown Building Maintenance have proudly maintained a 99.2% success rate in responding to emergency repairs within 24hours since restrictions came into force.

Covid has caused a large disruption to the service and while the authority is now in a position to re-open phone lines to routine responsive repairs, a delay in providing that service is inevitable as the backlog is worked through but the authority is working hard to meet the demand.

Backlog is likely to take several months and is dependent on a number of factors including the numbers of repair requests received, availability of materials and contractors.

PCC currently employs 64 tradesmen and women directly and has a considerable number of contractors on its framework to undertake a wide range of maintenance works and Building Maintenance are in the process of tendering a New Minor Works Framework.

All maintenance employees and contractors will continue to work under strict guidelines in people’s homes to ensure that all safety and social distancing measures are adhered to.

The Housing Building Maintenance service is also in the final stages of implementing ‘Repair Finder’ which will enable Contact Centre staff to diagnose the faults in customer’s homes far quicker and more accurately than before, which will in turn ensure that Building Maintenance are better informed and resourced ahead of arriving at the property to carry out the repair.

This is expected to reduce the length of calls to the Contact Centre and subsequently reduce call-waiting times.

The ‘Repair Finder’ tool is expected to be available later in the year and will soon offer residents direct access to an online version which will enable them to report responsive repairs themselves.

Once trialled and released, service requests can be logged by the tenant via the Council’s ‘Housing Online’ portal.

When residents report a problem within their home via the Call Centre or ‘Repair Finder’, they will receive text message alerts informing them of the timescales within which they can expect the repair to be made.

Cabinet member for Housing, Cllr Michelle Bateman said: “We’re under no illusion that lockdown measures have caused a major disruption to the building maintenance service.

“We’re receiving new requests now on top of those that have been on standby during the Covid restrictions. Pembrokeshire residents have shown tremendous patience and understanding of services that have been stretched throughout the crisis so we’re counting on their ongoing support and we hope they appreciate that it will take a period of time to get back to where we were.

“People can be assured that we are working very hard to bring back the outstanding levels of service we provided before Covid and it’s things like ‘Repair Finder’ that will help make this possible going forward.

“With one in every six employed people in Pembrokeshire working for the local authority, it’s important to remember that we are very much in this together”.

If you wish to report a repair to your home you can call the Contact Centre on 01437 764551.

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Leader’s update: Keep doing your bit to prevent Covid-19 spreading

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THE LATEST from the Leader of Pembrokeshire County Council, Cllr David Simpson.

Hello everyone, I hope you have had a good weekend and enjoyed some of the lovely weather we have had.

Pembrokeshire is beautiful in all weathers but there’s nowhere quite like it when the sky is totally blue and the sun shining. Fingers crossed for more lovely weather this summer.

Let me firstly apologise for the late message this week but our focus has been working hard on the situation with a cluster of Covid-19 cases in Tenby.

It is not a surprise that we are starting to see a rise in cases following the easing of restrictions but the cluster of 22 confirmed cases as of yesterday (Monday) shows just how important it is for us all to keep following the rules to prevent further spread.

Council Leader, Cllr David Simpson (Pic PCC)

Our Test, Trace and Protect teams have worked tirelessly to contact close contacts and break the chain of infection in a complex situation.

Working closely with Public Health Wales and Hywel Dda University Health Board we have now got a mobile testing unit in place at the Salterns Car Park in Tenby.

The full address is Salterns Car Park, Marsh Road, Tenby, SA70 8DU.

If you have symptoms of Covid-19 – even if you have had the vaccine – please arrange to get a test.

Previously, only those with either a high temperature, a new continuous cough, or a loss/change of taste and smell, were advised to seek a test.

But across Pembrokeshire, people with any of the following wider symptoms that are persistent and/or unusual for should also get a PCR test:

  • Mild summer cold type symptoms – including sore throat, runny nose, headache
  • Flu-like symptoms, including myalgia (muscle ache or pain); excessive tiredness; persistent headache; runny nose or blocked nose; persistent sneezing; sore throat and/or hoarseness, shortness of breath or wheezing
  • Generally feeling unwell and a history of being in contact with a known Covid-19 case
  • Any new or change in symptoms following a previous negative test

If you have any of the above symptoms, please stay home and book a test by calling 119 or through the UK portal https://www.gov.uk/get-coronavirus-test

There are also a series of walk-in clinics for both first and second doses of the vaccines continuing this week.

See Hywel Dda Health Board on Facebook for more information.

As you will know, the First Minister on Friday set out further information on the ongoing Covid-19 situation.

Mr Drakeford paused further plans to relax restrictions as cases rise across Wales.

This should underline just how important it is for us all to maintain social distancing, keep washing hands regularly, meet people outside whenever possible and wear face coverings where required.

All these things work to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

We’ve all worked so hard to get to this point, let’s not let it slip now.

Stay safe everyone.

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