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Financial advisor convicted of child grooming fails to land gagging order on professional ban

Tristan Kirk
·3-min read

A financial advisor convicted of trying to groom a teenage girl for sex has failed in a bid to keep quiet his possible ban from his profession.

Jon Frensham was given a 22-month suspended prison sentence in 2017 after trying to meet a 15-year-old schoolgirl he thought he had been chatting to online.

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) believes the Surrey-based chartered financial planner is no longer a “fit and proper person” and wants to ban him from regulated activity – a decision Frensham is challenging.

He tried to gag publicity of the legal battle, claiming clients would desert him if they knew about his criminal past.

But a judge ruled against him, finding that while Frensham’s business would suffer short-term damage it was outweighed by “the public interest in the principle of open justice”.

Frensham changed his name from Jonathan James Hunt following his conviction at the Old Bailey in March 2017, and switched the title of his company to Frensham Wealth.

The criminal trial heard how Frensham met “Holly” through dating website Badoo after posting that he was “looking for pretty girls to date”.

He was told she was 15, he asked for a selfie of the girl in her school uniform and eventually arranged a meeting at Plumstead train station.

However he had actually been conversing with a 36-year-old woman from an anti-paedophile vigilante group, who filmed the train station confrontation before turning over evidence to the police.

The FCA decided Frensham was unfit to carry out regulated activity, a decision he is challenging on the grounds that his conviction was unrelated to his work.

Judge Timothy Herrington, sitting in the Upper Tribunal, heard Frensham lost almost a third of his 93 clients following his conviction.

He claims the majority of his remaining clients are unaware he is a convicted sex offender, and believes further publicity of his past would drive more away.

Frensham argued news of the FCA case would “draw an explicit link between the conviction and (his) integrity for the purposes of his professional activities”, said the judge.

“Mr Frensham’s subjective view from nearly two decades of experience in the industry of how his clients will react is that the consequences would be more severe this time around because of the focus on the possibility of a loss of authorisation.”

However the FCA argued Frensham’s clients must have known about the criminal case, as he had employed a stand-in ‘locum’ during the months he spend on remand in prison awaiting trial.

It argued they were “plainly loyal” and must have noticed Frensham’s name change and the rebranding of his company.

The judge said Frensham’s past and previous identity were easy to find online, and agreed with the FCA’s contention that client knew about the conviction.

He concluded: “There is likely to be some damage in the short term but, in my view, there is no cogent and compelling evidence that enables Mr Frensham to surmount the very high hurdle he faces in successfully establishing that it would be unfair to permit publication in this case.”

Frensham was given three weeks to speak to his clients about the situation, before the FCA published a notice saying it considers him “not a fit and proper person”.

“He lacks the necessary integrity and reputation”, it said.

“The FCA considers that…Mr Frensham poses a risk to consumers and to confidence in the financial system.”

His appeal against the provisional decision to ban him from performing senior management functions and any regulated activity has not yet been decided by the Upper Tribunal.

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