Stephen Jones, a senior partner at London firm Jirehouse Partners, has been sentenced to 12 years in prison after pleading guilty to a £10.3 million property fraud on his client, US property developers Discovery Land. Mr Jones admitted two counts of fraud by abuse of his position of trust as a solicitor after diverting client money intended to be used for the purchase of Taymouth Castle in Scotland.
During civil proceedings held in 2019 to trace and recover the stolen funds, Mr Jones was held in contempt of court for refusing to disclose the whereabouts of the purchase money and was jailed for 14 months. At the time, the judge directed that the case papers be sent to the CPS. However, after 18 months of no action by the police and CPS, Discovery Land decided to take matters into their own hands and bring a private prosecution. The company instructed lawyers to initiate criminal proceedings which resulted in Mr Jones receiving a 12 year prison term.
In sentencing Mr Jones, Judge Martin Griffith said that he had acted with “rank dishonesty” and that his conduct was “obviously prosecutable”. Yet despite the strength of the case and a High Court judge directing the matter be referred to the CPS no action was taken. Indeed, HHJ Griffith said that Jones’s conduct was crying out for a prosecution that the police and CPS had left for the private prosecutor to conduct.
This case illustrates why private prosecution are considered to be an important constitutional safeguard against potential inertia or partiality by the State and, when properly undertaken, can be an effective remedy for those finding themselves the victims of crime. Due to limited resources and other demands, the police and CPS do not always pursue cases that are worthy of prosecution. The ability of determined persons such as Discovery Land to bring a private prosecution means that the public interest is still served, albeit not always by the CPS.
Being the first specialist private prosecution firm in the UK, the team at Edmonds Marshall McMahon have been at the forefront of assisting those victims of crime where the police and CPS decline to take action and have brought many of the leading high-profile private prosecutions before the court.
This case was originally reported in the Law Society Gazette and London Times.
Drafted by Georgina Diamanti, Jack Walsh and Ashley Fairbrother