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Struck-off solicitor’s eviction threat

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Stressful times: Sheila Hill, 82, runs the pub with her family

A LOCAL solicitor who was jailed for using money from dead client’s estate to fraudulently finance his property company is back on the scene, acting as an ‘agent’ to try and bully an elderly pub landlady into leaving her Milford Haven premises.

Sheila Hill, 82, who as invested her life savings into the renovation of The Sir Charles Whetham, said that she has been so stressed by the experience of dealing with Simon Griffiths, she has been rushed to hospital because of an uncontrollable nose bleed and has had to ask her daughter to get the police to get the bankrupt lawyer off her back.

Disgraced Griffiths was hauled before the Solicitors’ Disciplinary Tribunal in 2015 after concerns were raised about his practise, Eaves Solicitors, which was based on Milford Haven Marina.

He faced a number of allegations, including failing to fulfil and undertaking and misleading another firm of solicitors, which were found proved.

But now he is back working as an ‘agent’ and ‘legal advisor’ for owners of The Sir Charles Whetham, Jac Worley and Keith May. May has confirmed this to The Herald on the telephone.

In December 15, 2015, Sheila Hill, and daughter and son-in-law Jayne and Roy Driscoll, originally from Saundersfoot sold their family home with the intention of taking over and eventually purchasing the Murray Road pub.

A COMMUNITY PUB

Locals have testified to the fact that the property has improved from being a troubled establishment known for cheap booze and drugs, to a well run establishment with excellent food, and a proper family-friendly, family-run venue.

However the family’s dream has become a nightmare following the intervention of dodgy ex-solicitor Griffiths who according to Sheila’s daughter Jayne, used legal speak to trick the family to sign a ‘Tenancy at Will’, effectively giving them no security of tenure in the premises, allowing the owners to kick them out at the drop of a hat.

Jayne told The Herald: “Ever since day one, we have been trying to get a proper lease sorted with owners Keith and Jack. We have spent a lot of money on solicitor’s fees but so far, despite ten revisions of the proposed lease, it has all come to nothing. In my view the owners have purposely stalled on getting the lease signed and procrastinated over the sale of the property to us. We are now left in limbo, and the future of Pill’s community pub is at risk.”

She added: “On Tuesday night (Mar 14) I received a text message from Simon Griffiths. It said: “I refer to my telephone call at 9.12pm. Your tenancy at will has now come to an end and we need to speak to you to make arrangements for you to leave the Sir Charles Whetham.”

Jayne said: “My mum and I nearly passed out. It’s just one thing after another. But now I have found out that Simon Griffiths is a struck off solicitor and former convict, I have my doubts if the tenancy at will is legally enforceable.”

The Herald spoke to Keith May by telephone and asked about Simon Griffith’s role. He said to us: “Simon Griffiths was our solicitor before he got struck off, we have known him for a long time, and it was a bit of a shock to us all when he got closed down. We are all aware that he is no longer a solicitor, but he is helping us out with legal bits. As our legal advisor, at the present time he is focussed on trying to get the money owed to us by the current tenants of The Whetham.”

VAT CHARGED WRONGLY

But further investigation by The Herald has shown that invoices sent by Simon Griffiths to the family for rent are not lawful. On close inspection, invoices Griffiths sent did not contain ‘a unique invoice number that follows on from the last invoice’, which, according to HMRC, invalidates the invoices.

This newspaper has also been given sight of correspondence from HMRC which shows that, at least in June 2016, VAT on the rent for the pub was not chargeable, meaning that the family have been paying more than they owed – not less.

Despite the text from Griffiths asking the family to leave the pub comments from co-owner Keith May seem to be at odds with current events. He told The Herald: “Roy and Jayne are doing a fantastic job and it would be a shame to lose them. Roy is a professionally trained chef having worked before at Cheltenham race course that is why the food is so good.”

He cheerfully added: “I am happy for them to continue there as long as we can sort stuff out. The rent is only £250 a week including accommodation and they have their whole family living there.”

WE’LL DOUBLE CHECK TAX

Jac Worley told The Herald yesterday: “If there has been a genuine error with charging VAT on the rent then we are more than happy to knock that off the outstanding rent. Unfortunately, no rent has been paid since November and that is the key issue for me here.

“I was willing to sell the pub as long as a deposit was paid, but after a year of waiting we were yet to receive a deposit.”

On questioning why there were no invoice numbers on the rent bills Mr Worley added: “This was a genuine mistake which we will correct.”

“We will contact HMRC to clarify if we need to charge VAT on the rent or not.

Jac Worley denied he had been receiving legal advice from the struck off solicitor.

After speaking to The Herald, Mr Worley said that he did want the family to stay at the pub and the matter to be resolved amicably, potentially safeguarding an important community venue.

We put this story to Simon Griffiths but there was no response from him at the time of going to print.

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Ongoing incident closes busy Haverfordwest road

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A MAJOR road in Haverfordwest has been closed due to a police incident this afternoon (May 5)

A man was seen holding onto the outside railings of a bridge, talking to police officers.

The police said: “We are dealing with an ongoing incident, with concern for the welfare of a male, which has meant the A487 between Cartlett Road and Thomas Parry Way in Haverfordwest has been closed.

“Motorists are asked to avoid the area and find alternative routes.

There are reports of long queues for motorists in and around Haverfordwest with some drivers messaging The Herald saying “Town is gridlocked.”

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James Oulton found not guilty of 30 counts of sexual assault against 11 ex-pupils

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JAMES OULTON, 34, the primary school teacher who was accused of 30 charges of sexual assault against pupils has been found not guilty of all charges at Swansea Crown court today, following a lengthy trial (May 4).

The charges, now dismissed, had related to his time as a Haverfordwest primary school teacher, between 2012 and 2018.

Mr Oulton had described the accusations as a “witch-hunt”.

He confirmed he had made a formal complaint against one officer involved.

Speaking after the verdict, James Oulton said: “I am glad two years and eight months of hell for my family, colleagues and friends has come to an end.”

“I’m just glad it’s over and that the jury came to the right verdict.”

The press was only able to report on the prosecution case, but not the defence case – because Oulton him self via his barrister had made an application to the court for a press restriction.

The Herald feels that this press restriction on the reporting of both sides of the case, once granted, was unlawful, and is appealing to the Court of Appeal on a point of law.

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Nineteen arrests and weapons seized during knife crime action week

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NINETEEN people were arrested and a number of weapons were seized as police took part in a national week of action against knife crime, police have said.

Dyfed-Powys Police has released its results from Op Sceptre, which ran from April 26 to May 2, during which officers across the force took part in activity to crack down on crime involving blades.

The week was led by the force’s roads policing units (RPU), with a focus on targeting operations in key areas throughout the four divisions.

Neighbourhood policing teams were instrumental in engaging with shopkeepers, creating educational videos for communities on social media, and working with RPU on joint patrols in crime hotspots.

Inspector Andrew Williams said: “There have been some excellent results forcewide  from this year’s Op Sceptre, and as a result of the increased proactivity in key areas, there has also been a vast amount of other offences detected.

“This was thanks to some outstanding work by roads policing units, neighbourhood policing teams, the joint firearms unit and response officers.

“Our approach was to educate our communities on the laws around carrying and selling knives, and the dangers associated with having a blade on your possession, which was backed up with operational activity across the force.

“This has been very well received, and will be continued during the next operation.”

During the week 20 stop searches were carried out, resulting in seven arrests and numerous weapons being seized.

Twelve people were arrested for drug driving following stop checks on vehicles, one of which led to the discovery of a cannabis cultivation in the Cardigan area.

Traffic offence reports were issued to 41 drivers, and two people will be dealt with for failing to stop for officers when requested.

Neighbourhood policing activity saw engagement with 95 shop owners and community leaders, with officers and PCSOs reassured to find that most businesses were complying with the Challenge 25 policy. Those who were not will be dealt with accordingly.

Insp Williams said: “Our work to tackle knife crime will continue as we consider intelligence logs that were submitted during the operation and develop targeted plans to deal with concerns in our communities.

“We would also like to remind people that while our knife amnesty has now concluded, the best way to dispose of an unwanted blade is to take it to your local recycling centre.”

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