A solicitor has been sentenced to jail after helping an overseas client to buy a flat in Waltham Abbey, as part of the UK’s Right to Buy scheme.
Co-defendant, Sarah-Jane Foster was able to buy a £125,000 Epping District Council flat with the help of solicitor, Katherine Gadsby, at a 50% discount rate in May 2012. This was while Foster was residing in New Zealand and had her signature forged in order to carry out the buying process.
At the time, Gadsby was working as a partner within her father’s law firm, Foskett Marr Gadsby and Head. Epping District Council only began investigations into the solicitor’s actions after an anonymous letter received in May 2012 claiming her client (Foster) was actually living in New Zealand, after having gained residency.
The anonymous letter stated that Foster spent the vast majority of her time living in New Zealand. However, in order to qualify for the UK’s Right to Buy scheme, the buyer must have the property as their main residence and needs to have rented the home for at least 5 years. Although Foster was renting the flat for the required period, it was falsely declared as her main home in July 2011, and the discount of £62,500 was granted.
Though the letter claimed it to be true, the property wasn’t rented out for profit by Foster, who had always intended to return. Gadsby also supported this claim, saying she was under the impression that Foster was only planning on living abroad temporarily.
Foster pleaded guilty to a single count of fraud by false representation carried out between 10th July 2011 and 25th May 2012. She also admitted to a second count of fraud after having a legal document signed when knowingly not eligible to buy the property, on 17th February 2012.
Foster was sentenced to 21 months in prison, which was suspended for 2 years with 12 months supervision and 100 hours of unpaid work.
During proceedings, Gadsby pleaded guilty to 3 separate charges. She admitted helping Foster on 17th February 2012, after a legal document was signed even though circumstances didn’t comply with the Right to Buy scheme. Gadsby also pleaded guilty to using a legal document on 23rd March 2012, in the knowledge the signature had been forged; as well as concealing a conveyancing file during investigations a year later.
The Chelmsford Crown Court judge sentenced Gadsby to 1 year in jail — a reduced sentence after it was discovered the former solicitor had multiple sclerosis, which affected her mental capacity.
The local authority is currently aiming to withdraw Foster’s assets, as it is thought she is still in possession of the property sold under the Right to Buy scheme.