How is convicted Costessey fraudster back in business as a will writer?
PUBLISHED: 06:30 07 February 2018 | UPDATED: 16:26 07 February 2018
Three years ago a judge described a Costessey financial adviser as ‘ruined’. But now out of prison, the man labelled a “risk to consumers” is able to offer his services as a will writer.
As a financial adviser, heavily in debt, he tricked one of his disabled customers out of almost £12,000.
Christopher Peacher was jailed for 27 months in January 2015 for defrauding Fred Turner.
The Costessey businessman befriended Mr Turner, from Beeston Regis, who trusted him so much he wrote him into his will.
Mr Peacher then advised Mr Turner, who has since died, that he should invest his inheritance in a buy-to-let property in Aylsham, which was meant to fund care for the wheelchair-bound stroke victim.
But Mr Peacher moved into the home himself with his wife and even charged Mr Turner a 5pc “management fee”.
Speaking after Mr Peacher was jailed, Mr Turner said he felt “abused and betrayed” and said the 27-month prison sentence was “no way near long enough”.
The company he conned Mr Turner through, Sovereign Financial Services (East Anglia) Limited, has gone into liquidation owing almost £30,000, including £14,000 to the taxman.
When he was jailed for fraud, false representation and theft, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), which regulates the industry, banned Mr Peacher from being a financial adviser.
The FCA ruled in 2015: “The action was taken on the basis that Mr Peacher was considered by the Authority not to be a fit and proper person to perform any functions as his conduct demonstrated a serious lack of honesty and integrity, and that he poses a significant risk to consumers.”
But now out of jail the 55-year-old was advertising his services again last week through his new website called Sovereign Estate Planning Services at www.sovereign-eps.uk.net.
The site was taken down this week after we approached Mr Peacher about it.
Mr Peacher’s website, offered “estate planning advice” and will writing - something which is not regulated by the FCA – or anyone else.
On the site, he stated: “I have over 30 years experience in helping clients with all financial matters...I hold a Diploma in Financial Advice.”
Other services offered on his website included powers of attorney, bloodline planning, business succession and preparing for care homes.
None of these activities are classed by the FCA as a “regulated activity”, meaning Mr Peacher does not need FCA permission to carry out any of them.
When a reporter posing as a customer asked him for financial advice and a will he said he was now retired as a financial adviser, but he offered to write a will.
He said he could pass us on to someone else for financial advice.
On his website, Mr Peacher states he has the “back up” of legal services and experts from a company called Countrywide Tax and Trust Corporation Ltd.
But when we approached Countrywide Tax and Trust Corporation, its director Clive Ponder said the only connection Peacher had had with them was a free software trial.
Mr Ponder added: “Christopher has no authority from ourselves to use our name because… he has never joined CTTC Ltd.”
When approached for comment, Mr Peacher said he did not need to comment as will writing was different from being a financial adviser. There is nothing to stop people convicted of crimes from writing wills and Mr Peacher is not doing anything illegal, but it has sparked fresh calls for regulation.
One concerned reader who raised the issue with us said: “This should not be allowed.”
The Law Society has campaigned for regulation in will writing but that call was rejected by the then Lord Chancellor Chris Grayling in 2013.
Ian Bond, from The Law Society, said: “We campaigned because there is a lack of understanding by the public about what is regulated and what protections they get in will writing.
“Anybody can set themselves up as a will writer.”
He said they had come across cases where will writers had charged thousands of pounds for wills advertised as costing £50.
In other cases, he said the will writer had written themselves into the will to take large fees.
Although will writing is not regulated, will writers can join a body which self-regulates.
Tom Stansfield, from The Society of Will Writers, said: “Those who concern themselves with client care and upholding standards do join The Society of Will Writers and as such are required to meet minimum standards, provide proof annually of additional training undertaken and of professional indemnity insurance.”
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