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Bosses of 'shoddy' York will-writing firm avoid jail
THE incompetent bosses of a ‘shoddy’ York will-writing firm which left some customers thousands of pounds out of pocket have narrowly avoided jail today.
Samuel Dodds and Gary Jones, who ran Minster Legal Associates LLP until it was wound up in March last year, were given suspended eight month prison sentences by a judge at York Crown Court.
They were also ordered to carry out 250 hours unpaid work, disqualified from being a director or manager of a company for four years and told to come back to court in three months time to be told how much compensation they must pay to customers.
Their salesman, Michael Wild, was also given a suspended six month jail sentence, ordered to do 250 hours unpaid work and return in three months.
The court was told that customers trusted the business to draw up wills and other legal documents such as Lasting Power of Attorney and Protective Property Trusts.
But instead, some were left suffering from stress and sleepless nights, said the Recorder of York, Judge Stephen Ashurst.
The court heard that documents arrived weeks or months late or never turned up; mistakes were made drafting wills and other documents, with names and addresses detailed incorrectly or misspelt and documents not tailored to customers’ needs.
One will was worded so that it would achieve the very opposite of what the customer wanted, said Georgina Coade, prosecuting.
She said that when customers wrote to complain, they would usually receive no response.
The three were prosecuted by City of York Council’s Trading Standards department for unfair trading.
The judge said customers wrongly believed the partners were legally qualified but will writing was unregulated and they did not need to be.
He said none the defendants waas accused of offences of dishonesty but the partners had been ‘wholly incompetent,’ and their business had been ‘shoddy,’
Wild, 49, of Oxford House, Lowther Terrace, admitted falsely telling customers in 2011 that products he offered were only available for a very limited period and only on very limited terms.
He pleaded guilty on a previous occasion to engaging in unfair commercial practices on the basis he genuinely did not know that the products were available for longer than he said they were, but accepted he should have checked his claims more thoroughly.
Dodds, 31, of The Green, Acomb, and Gary Jones, 32, of Curzon Terrace, York, each pleaded guilty earlier this year to two counts of trading without professional diligence.
The court heard Wild had been given a four month suspended jail sentence by Judge Ashurst in 2011 for stealing his then landlord's credit card and running up debts of more than £10,000 on it.