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Police are not pursuing inquiry into top government lawyer

The government office of Myron Simmons, the senior Crown counsel

Police do not plan to pursue an inquiry into a top government lawyer accused of “suspicious conduct” in his handling of client funds when he was in private practice.

A civil court judgment detailing how Myron Simmons, a senior Crown counsel, failed to pay $52,000 in stamp duty on behalf of his clients Gena and Richard Robinson was referred by a judge to detectives last April.

Cindy Clarke, the Director of Public Prosecutions, told The Royal Gazette that the matter remained “under investigation”.

She said: “I have not yet been asked to make a decision on whether to prosecute.”

A Bermuda Police Service spokesman said: “The matter was referred to the Bermuda Police Service and the court documents reviewed.

“However, in order to advance such an investigation, the aggrieved are required to come forward and provide a statement of complaint.

“That never occurred in this instance. As such, the matter cannot be advanced.”

The spokesman did not respond to a further question about whether the judge’s referral was considered a formal complaint.

Mr Simmons is the husband of Kathy Lynn Simmons, the Attorney-General and Minister of Legal Affairs and Constitutional Reform, and the Gazettereported in 2018 that 14 civil cases had been filed in the Supreme Court against him in the past ten years.

Five of the cases named Mrs Simmons, who ran Lightbourne & Simmons law firm with her spouse before joining the Civil Service, as co-defendant. The pair have been practising lawyers for 30 years.

The case involving Mr and Mrs Robinson, which was referred to the police and the DPP by Puisne Judge Larry Mussenden, marks the fifteenth civil matter naming Mr Simmons as a defendant of which the Gazette is aware.

The judgment said that the Robinsons hired Mr Simmons in 2011 to do conveyance work on the transfer of a property in Pembroke from Mrs Robinson’s mother to herself and her husband.

Mr Simmons asked them for $52,000 for the stamp duty owed to the Office of the Tax Commissioner, but in 2019 the couple discovered that the lawyer had not paid the fee to the Government.

Mr Mussenden wrote that the Robinsons were “completely unaware” that Mr Simmons had not paid the stamp duty until the Land Registry told them that the property still belonged to Mrs Robinson’s mother.

Mr Mussenden wrote: “Since May 2019, the plaintiffs have made repeated demands to the defendant both orally and by e-mail.

“The statement of claim also sets out that the defendant has admitted his liability to repay the funds but has to date failed, refused and/or neglected to repay the funds or any portion thereof to the plaintiffs.”

The amount owed, including interest, as of March 2022 was $70,803, plus $3,500 in costs. Mr Simmons signed a consent judgment agreeing to pay, but Mr Mussenden said that did not mean that the funds had been repaid and did not bring the “saga” to an end.

The judge wrote: “… it appears to me that the facts set out in the statement of claim give rise to suspicious conduct by the defendant in respect of his handling of client funds entrusted to him for onward payment to the OTC.

“Therefore, I am satisfied that it is just that I should refer this matter to the Commissioner of Police and the Director of Public Prosecutions for any action as appropriate …”

He said because the “serious allegations” potentially breached Mr Simmons’s professional duties, he would refer them to the Bermuda Bar Association’s professional conduct committee.

The damning judgment appears not to have affected Mr Simmons’s role in the Civil Service.

He still works for the Attorney-General’s Chambers, according to the most recent list of practising lawyers published by the Bar Association.

He also acted briefly as Solicitor-General last August, just five months after Mr Mussenden’s verdict was delivered.

A Bar Association spokeswoman said that the professional conduct committee would investigate and, where appropriate, prosecute any lawyer who failed to meet required standards.

However, she said, such matters must remain private unless a court order was published after a tribunal or an accused attorney asked for their case to be heard in public.

Asked about the employment status of Mr Simmons in May, when his name was briefly not on the practising lawyers list, a Ministry of Legal Affairs spokesman said: “The Government notes that, as is the normal practice, we do not comment on personnel matters.”

The ministry did not respond to a request for further comment and nor did Mr Simmons, who previously told the Gazette that he had explained the circumstances of what happened to the Robinsons.

Mrs Robinson declined to comment when contacted by the Gazette. It was not possible to reach Mr Mussenden.