Coroner Alan Crickmore jailed for eight years over £2m theft
A former Gloucestershire coroner has been jailed for eight years for stealing £2m from clients, some of whom had died, at his solicitors practice.
Alan Crickmore, 57, of East Approach Drive, Cheltenham, admitted 24 counts of fraud at an earlier hearing.
Southwark Crown Court heard the money was used to pay for a lavish lifestyle including exotic cruises, fancy restaurants and fine wines.
Police said Crickmore had spent £400,000 on his credit card since 2005.
In total he stole £1,985,097 from clients and the estates of dead people by taking money from accounts at his practice, Alan C Crickmore Solicitors in Cheltenham.
Crickmore used the cash to pay loans and overcharge for services, police said.
The £400,000 on his credit card included £45,000 on restaurants, £74,000 on supermarket bills, £33,000 on holidays and £92,000 of cash withdrawals, they added.
Judge Anthony Leonard said he would be required to serve at least four years in jail.
"The offences are so serious only a custodial sentence would be justified," he said.
He added that he had never come across a case where a solicitor had been as dishonest as Crickmore.
"I am driven to conclude that you preferred to continue a life of dishonesty rather than lose your position in the community, including your role as coroner."
The crimes first came to light in 2008 when a new accountant at the practice carried out an audit.
The guilty plea followed a two-year police inquiry into alleged breaches of the solicitors' code of conduct and accounting rules.
Crickmore's practice was closed by the Solicitors Regulation Authority.
He was suspended from his post as Gloucestershire coroner in December 2010 but continued to draw an annual salary of £60,000 from Gloucestershire County Council. He resigned from the position last month.
Crickmore stole £894,442 from the estate of one of his clients, Kenneth Goodwin, who died in 2007.
Mr Goodwin's son Ian said it had come as a "tremendous shock" when the family discovered the theft.
"In the early days you would have thought butter would not have melted in his mouth. He became a personal friend to the family.
"When this came to light it was horrendous. I was absolutely shattered.
"It has had a great big impact on us financially.
"It is very disturbing, especially for my mother, it is very upsetting for her."
A Gloucestershire Police spokesman said the force would try to recover Crickmore's assets of about £800,000 under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
In a statement read out on his behalf outside court, Crickmore said he was "ashamed" of his conduct and he "bitterly regretted" his actions.