THE Wirral Coroner is under investigation over his personal conduct after his business partner made up invoices and took money from clients.
The Office for Judicial Complaints (OJC) has launched an investigation into Christopher Johnson after he was referred to them in a rare move by the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge.
It is in light of a maximum fine of £2,000 issued by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) for his role in events at the now closed solicitors firm Rex Taylor and Meadows in West Kirby.
He was also ordered to pay £3,000 costs by the SRA.
It is understood that the Lord Chief Justice became aware of the SRA’s finding and referred the matter to the OJC last month.
Mr Johnson – who has been Wirral Coroner for 25 years and is a former head of the national Coroners’ Soceity – will continue working in his role as coroner while the investigation is ongoing.
He declined to comment on the situation.
In a brief statement, a spokesman for the OJC said: “We can confirm that the Office for Judicial Complaints is investigating the matter (in accordance with the Judicial Discipline (Prescribed Proceedings) Regulations 2006.”
Once the OCJ has made its recommendations, the Lord Chief Justice and the Lord Chancellor Chris Grayling – who is also the Conservative Justice Secretary – will make their decision.
The possible punishments range from an informal warning, a fine, or being removed from office.
The investigation is expected to last around three months before it concludes.
An SRA investigation into Rex Taylor and Meadows found that the Wirral coroner had “no direct knowledge” of the firm’s improper dealings, “which were the responsibility of another partner”.
But the fine was still levied because Mr Johnson was judged to have been “jointly responsible” for the firm’s breaches of the Solicitors Accounts Rules.
Rex Taylor and Meadows closed down after Johnson’s partner Alan Tickell, 54, of Meols, was struck off at a hearing in November last year and ordered to pay £20,000 costs.