Two men, including a man from Peacehaven, posing as qualified lawyers have been sentenced for defrauding families seeking legal advice and support, police have said.
David Abbott, of Arundel Road, Peacehaven, and Richard Hayes, of St Aubyns, Hove, both 50, were sentenced at Lewes Crown Court on Thursday (April 23) for defrauding families by pretending to be qualified barristers, police said.
They defrauded three families, who retained the pair to represent them in Family Court proceedings for Special Educational Needs tribunals for their young children, police said.
Police said at a previous hearing Abbott had pleaded guilty to seven counts of fraud and Hayes had pleaded to one count of fraud.
Abbott was jailed for two years three months, concurrently on each count against him, while Hayes was ordered to do 250 hours community service, police said.
They pleaded guilty to representing themselves as a qualified and practising Barrister and Solicitor respectively, running companies, entitled Consumer Family Legal Services. and then SEN Legal Services, of Queens Road, Brighton in 2011, police said.
Prior to these offences coming to light, Abbott had been disbarred by the Bar Standards Authority on March 7 2012 for professional misconduct, police said.
Detective Constable Brad Lozynski of Brighton CID said; “Abbott and Hayes exploited these vulnerable and trusting families, who had simply searched the Internet for specialist legal advice. They gave every appearance of being genuine, but at the last minute failed to attend court, leaving the victims high and dry with no valid legal advice, and having incurred considerable expense.
“We were glad to be able to help them achieve justice, but this case does serve as a warning to people planning legal action that they should be careful in their research in deciding who to retain, and not rely purely on web searches. If you are in any doubt, always check with the Bar Standards Authority.”