Coroner turned crook is referred to SDT

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1 May 2015


SRA

SRA: “improper and unauthorised withdrawals” from client account

William John Owen, a former coroner for Carmarthenshire, has been referred to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT).

Mr Owen, 79, was jailed for theft in November last year for five years. He admitted 17 charges of theft and false accounting at Newport Crown Court.

In its decision notice, the Solicitors Regulation Authority SRA said the allegations were that he had made “improper and unauthorised withdrawals” from client account, and failed to adhere to the terms of a will of which he was an executor.

Mr Owen had also “been convicted upon his own confession of theft and false accounting and sentenced to a term of imprisonment”. He is due to appear before the SDT on 27 May this year.

The former coroner was reported to have stolen the money from “a long-standing client” after Mr Owen was made executor of his estate.

Prosecuting counsel told Newport Crown Court: “Owen would bill for work, charging it to the estate. He would then take the money without doing any work.”

Mr Owen was said to have stolen a total of £1m from a farmer at a rate of £125,000 a year, as his law firm struggled for business.

He was accused of sending invoices to Mr Williams’ estate up to 14 years after his death – even though little or no work had been carried out.

Judge Stephen Hopkins said: “You used your position of responsibility to acquire half of the bequeathed amount from Mr Williams’ estate.

“You were well known and well liked in the Carmarthenshire area. That made it more difficult to question the amount of money being taken from the account.”

Mr Owen was arrested in 2011 following an investigation by the SRA, which said it had “reason to suspect dishonesty”.

The SRA handed its findings to Dyfed-Powys police and suspended Mr Owen’s PC. He resigned as a coroner, a post he had held for 50 years, 25 of them for county of Carmarthenshire. The SRA also closed Mr Owen’s firm, Moreb Limited, based in Llandeilo.

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