A LEGAL executive who was jailed for taking £100,000 from vulnerable, elderly clients so she could invest in a gym and refurbish her home could be out of her cell nine months earlier than expected.

Joni Parrington could leave prison in April next year despite being given a conditional release date of January 2017 when she was sentenced in June, The Argus can reveal.

The 36-year-old abused the trust of her victims, who were incapable of looking after their own assets.

She moved money without their permission while working at the Peacehaven branch of solicitors firm Lawson Lewis Blakers in 2013.

Parrington pleaded guilty to six charges, two of fraud by false representation, three of fraud by abuse of position and one of money laundering but denied her actions were for personal gain.

The news comes ahead of a court hearing tomorrow to confiscate the money she took.

In June judge Shani Barnes told Lewes Crown Court Parrington would serve half of her 38 month sentence on licence, meaning she would be out in January 2017.

But she could now be eligible for release on temporary licence from HMP Bronzefield as early as April 10 next year, it has emerged.

This means she could be back in the comfort of her own home four days a week, according to paperwork seen by this newspaper. She may have to wear an electronic tag and stick to a curfew until her sentence expires in 2018, documents suggested.

A Ministry of Justice spokesman stressed the process was entirely "normal" but victims and those affected by Parrington's actions disagreed.

Victim Anne Westgate said she was "shocked" to hear Parrington - who cashed more than £18,000 of her money - could be out of prison so soon.

The 85-year-old, who is confined to a wheelchair because of severe arthritis, has difficulty speaking and is looked after by carers at her home in Peacehaven, said: "When I found out what she had done I thought she was very stupid. I'm surprised she is leaving jail so early."

Mother-of-five Parrington claimed the investment would give the customers a five per cent return in profit when Eastbourne-based Crossfit gym established itself at new premises.

But she defrauded four customers to make money for herself by concealing payments, leaving 96-year-old Elizabeth Parker with £16,000 in care home bills.

And Parrington helped herself to the money of the late Irene Sayer, the court heard.

Between September and December 2013, Parrington, of St Philips Avenue, Eastbourne, moved £104,889.70 out of four clients’ accounts.

The majority was paid to Crossfit gym owners Richard Robinson and Mark Goodwin after she heard they needed investors to expand the business.

The remaining £9,500 was paid into a joint account she set up just weeks before with Karl Emery, described in court as her boyfriend. A money laundering charge against him was dismissed.


BARELY six months ago vulnerable victims were relieved to hear the woman to whom they had entrusted £100,000 of their savings was going to jail.

Now The Argus reveals Joni Parrington will be out of jail for four days a week as early as April – much earlier than expected. Release on temporary licence will be granted by the Ministry of Justice to help her “re-acclimatise” back into the community.

At a sentencing hearing in June she was handed a 38-month jail term by judge Shani Barnes and the court was told she would serve half on licence. But she will be allowed to go home for four days a week from April – some nine months earlier than previously anticipated – according to paperwork seen by this newspaper.

The University of Southampton law degree graduate spent years training and building up relationships with clients after landing a scholarship in her final year of study.

By all accounts she was a model employee during her 13 years working at Lawson Lewis Blakers and she built a home for her five children, the youngest of whom is around two-and-a-half-years-old, in a quarter of a million pound property she once shared with her former husband, thanks to her successful career.

She joined the law firm in 2001 as a trainee legal secretary and became a fellow of the Institute of Legal Executives. Her latest role, based in the Peacehaven office, specialised in wills, probate and elderly clients.  Seen as a team player, she topped a ladies’ tennis league during a contest organised by the firm, and pictures show her taking part in office fundraisers for Macmillan Cancer Support.

In another shot she proudly holds a certificate for raising £22,810 for free wills charities in March 2013 – only six months before she began committing her crimes.

Parrington claimed the four extremely vulnerable victims would have backed the investment. She described Elizabeth Parker as mentally incapable, Gertrude Davis as deaf and Anne Westgate as “elderly who wanted a bit of fun”.

As a gym member, Parrington learned that the Crossfit trainers were looking for an investor and offered to help.

And some 14 years after she joined, her reputation was in tatters after she admitted her crimes, which judge Shani Barnes described as falling “very far from grace”.

She defrauded elderly women out of more than £100,000 to invest in a gym and to make home improvements by transferring some of the money into a joint account which she shared with Karl Emery, who was described in court as her boyfriend and lives in her property.

Mr Emery, 38, also of St Philips Avenue, Eastbourne, was initially charged with money laundering alongside Parrington but this was dismissed.

As a result she has spent the last few months in Bronzefield All Women’s Prison near Ashford, Surrey. She will have been taking part in craft workshops, cleaning, painting and decorating alongside other mothers and babies and criminals serving life sentences.

Parrington claimed she did not conceal her actions on purpose but it was a ‘mistake’ because she used legal document templates and payslips already on file as she was “rushing” her work and she had been brought up to “work hard for what she had”.

Kevin Light, defending, said customer feedback forms praised her relationship with clients.

Dale Sullivan, prosecuting, said the benefit was “clear”, with documents suggesting her intention to profit financially and discrepancies in the price for architect consultancy fees for the gym and the amount she paid herself to cover the cost from the victims’ accounts.

Lawson Lewis Blakers had suffered a “loss of reputation” among clients and its insurance premium increased because of the substantial claim, he said, adding: “People would have lost their jobs if the money was not given back through insurers.”

At the time of the hearing Jeremy Sogno, senior partner at Lawson Lewis Blakers, said Parrington was a “long-serving and trusted legal executive who committed a gross act of betrayal”.

He added: “As soon we discovered her actions, we suspended her. She was sacked a week later following an internal inquiry. We immediately paid back all the money stolen from the four clients and offered them our sincere apologies.

“Our clients and professional colleagues have given us great support during this very distressing period.  “We are very grateful for their continuing trust and loyalty.”


JONI Parrington will be given release on temporary licence (ROTL) if she is allowed out earlier than her original sentence.

It means being able to leave the prison for a short time, according to the Prison Reform Trust.  A criminal might be granted ROTL because a parent or partner is seriously ill, or to help them “settle back into the community” after a sentence is completed. But not everyone can be granted it, the trust said.  Prisoners can apply for temporary licence, but those who cannot be given this include those on remand for more charges or waiting to be sentenced for other convictions. Or if they are sentenced again for not paying a confiscation order.  When contacted by The Argus about Joni Parrington, a Ministry of Justice spokesman stressed the process seemed “quite normal,” adding: “There’s a difference between being released on full licence and temporary licence.  ROTL helps people get used to life outside of prison and re-acclimatise in the community.

A prison service spokesman added: “Prisoners may be released on temporary licence to work, volunteer or spend time with their families, providing they meet strict criteria and pass a rigorous risk assessment.

“Temporary release allows prisoners to start to adjust to life outside of prison, meaning they are less likely to commit crime on the outside. Effective rehabilitation reduces re-offending, cuts crime, and improves public safety.”