Pair face jail over £1m Selsey solicitors fraud

Two solicitors are facing jail for stealing £1m from clients of their law firm in Selsey to fund their lavish lifestyles.

Emma Coates, 47, from Selsey, appearing at Southwark Crown Court. Picture Central News
Emma Coates, 47, from Selsey, appearing at Southwark Crown Court. Picture Central News

Simon Kenny, 61, a district judge, and his assistant Emma Coates, 47, raided customer accounts at CK Solicitors over four years.

Coates, of West Street, Selsey, paid off four mortgages on properties in Selsey, Chichester and Bognor Regis, spent £15,000 on a log cabin and hot tub, and bought a Range Rover, a court heard.

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She also took 12 friends for a lavish trip to Barbados with the money she stole.

Simon Kenny, 61, of Old Hunt Stables in Catsfield, near Battle, East Sussex. Picture Central News

A jury heard that Kenny and Coates had been in a relationship but it broke off in 2010 and they later blamed each other for the crimes.

Stephen Hiseman, 60, a ‘fee earner’ at CK Solicitors, also stole more than £60,000 from two clients, a jury found.

Southwark Crown Court heard the company’s accountant, Robert Foskett, committed suicide after he ‘realised he had been lied to’.

His suicide note read: “I am so sorry but the pressure mounts on me. I was lured into signing an audit certificate by Simon Kenny which I should not have.

“He assured me funds would be the following week from his family trust but that became untrue.”

Mr Foskett also left a note to his secretary which read: “It has been revealed to me that I think with Simon Kenny we have tumbled on a fraud that is probably £300,000, it may even be £600,000 or even more.

“Quite nasty...unfortunately when people do this sort of thing they don’t care a damn who gets hurt.”

The Solicitors’ Regulatory Authority shut down CK Solicitors in May 2011 and a large-scale investigation was launched by the Sussex Police major fraud squad.

Within months of CK Solicitors closing, Coates had set up another firm, Coates and Co, and stole £85,000 from an elderly client’s will when she died in 2011.

Prosecutor Richard Milne told jurors: “Over a period of several years client monies were misappropriated by Simon Kenny, Emma Coates and Stephen Hiseman.

“In the case of Mr Kenny and Miss Coates, the misappropriation mainly took the form of diverting client money from the company’s client account to the office account and then expending that money not in relation to the client matter in question, but for their own use or for the use of the firm.”

Kenny was suspended from his role as a deputy district judge at a county court in Sussex while he stood trial.

A jury convicted Kenny, of Old Hunt Stables, Catsfield, of two counts of fraud totalling £1m after he made ‘fraudulent transfers of monies between the firm’s client account, office account, and himself’.

During the trial he denied involvement in the crimes and claimed Coates must have hacked his email account and sent messages in his name.

Coates was convicted of two counts of fraud totalling more than £415,000, but cleared of another two counts of fraud.

They were remanded in custody ahead of their sentencing this Friday, January 27.

Mr Milne said Kenny, an Australian national, was a potential flight risk because ‘even if his passport was surrendered there would be no problem with him leaving the jurisdiction and going to an Australian embassy’ to get travel documents.

Hiseman, of Morzine, France, was released on a conditional bail after being convicted of two counts of fraud and has been ordered to surrender his passport.

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