Legal – Court upholds jail sentence

A Wigan chartered accountant who conspired with two local solicitors to falsify their accounts had his six-month prison sentence upheld by the Criminal Appeal Court in London last week.

Keith Baldwin, 49, of Walter Scott Avenue, was jailed at Manchester Crown Court on 19 February after admitting the offence.

Two Wigan solicitors were also jailed, while Christopher Richards, a clerk acting under Baldwin’s instruction who also pleaded guilty, was ordered to perform 200 hours’ community service.

Mr Justice Thomas, sitting with the Lord Chief Justice Lord Bingham and Mr Justice Brian Smedley, announced in the Appeal Court: ‘The trust reposed by the public in solicitors handling large sums of money depends on confidence in accounting systems.

‘Baldwin knew there were problems with the accounts, he knew of a deficit and of a Law Society investigation. He should have blown the whistle on the fraud.’

Baldwin was a partner in Wigan firm NR Barton & Co and dealt with the personal and professional affairs of solicitor Geoffrey Isherwood.

In June 1990, Isherwood entered into partnership with Roger Smith in Wigan, and in late 1992 or early 1993 they retained Baldwin’s firm to act for them and prepare an accounts report required by the Law Society.

In November 1993, the Law Society began an investigation into the solicitors.

In July 1994 it reported a #120,000 deficiency in the client account.

The society paid #90,000 compensation to clients.

The Crown case against Isherwood and Smith was that they took money from their client accounts, fraudulently obtained an #81,500 bank loan, providing paperwork to try to cover up the deficit.

Baldwin, a local charity fundraiser, admitted taking part in the conspiracy.

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