Former Bendigo lawyer: 'I was always covering up my badness'

A LAWYER accused of siphoning more than $1.2 million from an elderly client’s bank accounts has told a court how he had to sack his wife because she was constantly correcting him.

Euan Vance, 53, told the Supreme Court he had been running a legal practice at Eaglehawk, a suburb of Bendigo, when he hired his first wife, Janet.

"She was a woman who had a lot of fine qualities, but one of her missions in life was to constantly correct me," Vance said.

"I said to her, ‘Look, I'm happy to employ you, but when we go home don't talk about work at home because when I'm home I don't want to think about the office, I just want to relax at home.'

"But she couldn't. We'd get home and she'd say, 'Have you rung so and so? Have you done such and such?', and the rest of it. I talked about our rule but in the end I had to say, ‘You're fired.'"

Vance, a former Presbyterian church minister and Army chaplain, said he separated from his wife of 23 years in 2010 and had since remarried to a woman from Ghana he met online.

He now lived in Queensland where he had had a job as a sausage process worker, but was unemployed.

Vance was giving evidence during a pre-sentence hearing after he pleaded guilty to a number of charges including making a false document, obtaining a financial advantage by deception and obtaining property by deception.

He allegedly used some of the $1.2 million taken from his client George Cutts' accounts to buy cars for female staff he wanted be in a relationship with, as well as two properties.

When he was arrested in July 2011, he had $10,000 in cash in his coat pocket.

A later search of his Harcourt North home, south of Bendigo, uncovered a safe buried in a shed containing more than $340,000 in cash.

Vance denied buying cars for female staff members to try to win their affections, saying he was just a friendly person.

"It is true that I did send messages to them of a friendly nature. They may have interpreted them in a certain way, that's up to them."

He also denied giving a $3000 engagement ring to one employee, Kassie Place.

"She had a boyfriend anyway so I've never intruded upon a relationship where I know there's another man because there's always the risk that the other man might get cross and want to engage in fisticuffs," he said.

"I'm not a violent man although because I face now prospect of going to prison for three years I have been training myself in self-defence so that if the need arises now I know how to defend myself."

Vance also rejected claims he asked one female staff member to wear short skirts and revealing tops to work.

"The fact is that some of these women were doing that anyway without being asked," he said.

"I always had a policy in the workplace that people could wear what they liked as long as it was respectable."

Vance said he was a changed man since his arrest.

"One thing that's very clear in the Bible is that lies come from the devil. I believe there is a devil because the Bible says so. I did tell a lot of lies when I was in legal practice and I was always covering up my badness, but because of my increasing trust in God and ... conviction about what is in the Bible, I have decided not to lie," he said.

"I am not perfect but I still do it from time to time, but I am definitely doing it a lot less than I used to when I was involved in the legal practice."

Vance, who is representing himself, has previously told the court he did not use a single dollar from Mr Cutt’s accounts for his own purposes.

The plea hearing, before Justice Michael Croucher, continues.


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