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  • Writer's pictureInchmead

Lawyer avoids jail for client tip off in SFO probe

William Osmond was given a suspended sentenced at the Old Bailey for tipping off his client about an ongoing money laundering investigation



The former solicitor was given an 18-month suspended sentence, 100 hours of unpaid work and three months to pay £5,000 of fees to the Serious Fraud Office (SFO). Osmond plead not guilty at trial.


Osmond, 69, has had to resign as a solicitor but is still managing partner at law firm Osmond & Osmond. He provided character statements on himself from his three children, his wife, and a former business associate, which all described him as a generous and decent man. His children were also in the stands for the sentencing.


The SFO was originally asking for around £300,000 in costs in relation to the case Osmond had interfered with and the time Osmond himself was under investigation. The original money laundering and bribery case was dropped due to the fear of evidence being destroyed because of Osmond’s actions.


Judge Trawler considered these fees too high and asked for a breakdown of the fees.


The SFO representative stated that the fees for the trial period and sentencing had come to £41,552 in 2023 alone, £24,000 in staff fees and £17,000 in council fees. Judge Trawler described this as ‘astronomical’.


Osmond’s representative made it clear that he could not afford these charges unless he was to sell the firm, which he was planning on doing but if jail time were to be received this could cause issues in the sale.


He also noted that Osmond only had a few thousand pounds in his bank account, a substantial mortgage at two thirds of the value of the house and most of his outgoings were being paid on credit cards.


An argument used in defence was that there was no financial benefit or motivation behind Osmond committing the crimes and was a mistake made from naivety and this should not cross the custody threshold.


Judge Trawler said: ‘Instances of tipping off that cause damage to an investigation leads to maximum sentence.


‘The seriousness of this is that you were warned not to three times, and as money laundering officer of your firm at the time I reject the offence was made out of naivety.


‘As a lawyer you knew exactly that this was a criminal offence.’

The maximum sentence for forgery is up to 10 years and the most for tipping someone off under investigation is five years.


Osmond was handed six months for tipping off and three months for forgery.

Judge Trawler drew attention to the overpopulated prison system and the effect this would have on his wife, with Osmond being handed an 18-month suspended sentence, £5,000 costs to pay and 100 hours of unpaid work.


Source: https://www.accountancydaily.co/lawyer-avoids-jail-client-tip-sfo-probe

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