St Leonards judge ordered to pay just £51,938 for £800,000 fraud

Simon Kenny outside court during the trial. Central News
Simon Kenny outside court during the trial. Central News

A district judge who stole nearly £800,000 from customers of his Selsey law firm to fund a party lifestyle with his lover has been ordered to pay back just £51,938.

Simon Kenny, 60, and his assistant Emma Coates, 48, splashed out on lavish trips, a Range Rover and a hot tub while ransacking client funds at CK Solicitors over a period of four years, a court heard.

Emma Coates during the trial in January. Central News

Emma Coates during the trial in January. Central News

Coates, who stole £85,000 from an elderly client’s will after she died, built up a property portfolio, spent £15,000 on a log cabin, and treated friends to all-expenses paid trip to the Cheltenham Festival and a £27,000 holiday to Barbados, has been ordered to pay back just £1.

Police later discovered she had been making mortgage payments on four properties – two in Selsey, and two others in Chichester and Bognor Regis.

But while the couple lived a life of luxury their accountant became so depressed at their betrayal that he killed himself.

The pair were each jailed for six years in January after turning against one another during their subsequent trial.

Simon Kenny and Emma Coates. Sussex Police picture

Simon Kenny and Emma Coates. Sussex Police picture

Judge Peter Testar opted to sentence the devious duo on the basis of a fraud totalling £777,519 rather than the near £1 million originally claimed by prosecutors.

He said at the time: “It is difficult to imagine a more spectacular breach of trust by someone running a legal practice to the clients of that practice.”

On Monday, September 11, the pair appeared before the same judge at Southwark Crown Court, who ordered they must pay back a total of £51,939.

Judge Testar ordered Kenny repay £51,938 and ordered Coates to pay a nominal fee of £1 because she is bankrupt and has nothing left.

The judge said an application could be made to seize any future assets if they are found, adding: “Just in case there is a visitor from Mars sitting in this court room who thinks this is a bit peculiar.

“The reason for all of this is that in case there is a pot of gold, then there can be a hook on which an application can be hung.”

Kenny, of St. Leonards-on-Sea, East Sussex, who has business interests in the Far East, informed staff he had moved cash to offshore accounts because of the Northern Rock bank crisis.

His total profit from the con was £505,52,34 while Coates raked in £471,00,35, Southwark Crown Court heard.

They had been lovers until the affair cooled in 2010.

It led to the closure of CK Solicitors and a major investigation by the Sussex Police major fraud unit.

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

The company’s reporting accountant, Robert Foskett, committed suicide after he ‘realised he had been lied to’ about the con.

Prosecutor Richard Milne said during the trial: “Mr Foskett’s dawning realisation in February 2011 that he had been duped back in 2009 appears to have been a major factor leading, tragically, to his suicide on March 6, 2011 – just two days before the commencement of the first of the relevant SRA investigations.”

Jurors saw his suicide note, which 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.”

Stephen Hiseman, 61, a ‘fee earner’ from CK Solicitors, also swindled two clients and was before the court.

He will be before the crown court on December 15 for a full confiscation hearing.

The court heard he ‘fraudulently caused the transfer of £60,000 from CK Solicitors client account to an account of Chris Coxill and then to an account in his name’ between November 2010 and March 2011.

The Solicitors’ Regulatory Authority shut down CK Solicitors in May 2011, but within months Coates had set up another firm, Coates and Co, and stole £85,000 from an elderly client’s will when she died in 2011.

She was on bail at the time.

Mr 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 spending that money not in relation to the client matter in question, but for their own use or for the use of the firm.”