SA lawyer jailed over client theft
A lawyer who stole more than a quarter of a million dollars from a 100-year-old client has been jailed and ordered to pay compensation to a Catholic organisation.
Peter David Kerin, 52, was found guilty in the South Australian Supreme Court of two counts of theft.
In jailing him for at least one year and nine months, Justice Malcolm Blue said one count related to $200,000 belonging to Mary Eileen Fahey.
“Miss Fahey was 100 years old at the time you committed the offence and you acted under an enduring power of attorney which Miss Fahey had granted to you and your father in 1985,” the judge said.
In October 2007, Kerin transferred the funds to a company account of which he was the chief operating officer, but they were lost over a month’s trading in derivatives.
The second count related to $85,000 belonging to Ms Fahey’s estate, following her death in November 2007.
“Ellen Cahill was one of the co-executors of Miss Fahey’s will and was Miss Fahey’s friend for over 60 years,” the judge said.
“In her victim impact statements she referred to the fact that Miss Fahey left the bulk of her estate to the Legion of Mary to acquire headquarters for its operations in South Australia, and that this will not now be possible.
“She referred to the devastation that Miss Fahey would have felt if she had been aware of what has happened.”
Following his conviction in April, Kerin paid $31,460 to the Legion of Mary.
The judge ordered him to pay the organisation the rest of the $285,000.
Kerin’s name was struck off the roll of practitioners in late 2006, after admitting matters including acting without the instructions of a client and against her interest.
The judge set a maximum term of three years and six months, and refused to suspend the sentence.
“… the offences were serious, involving a loss to the Legion of Mary of a very substantial amount of money and a fundamental abuse of trust,” he said.