Firm ordered to pay £230k after allegations of fabricating note

Topics: Property residential,Courts business,Professional negligence

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A Yorkshire firm has been ordered to pay £229,970 to a former client over mishandled property transaction advice almost 10 years ago.

Mansion Estates Limited accused Hayre & Co and its principal Rajinder Hayre of fabricating a series of attendance notes and exchanges following the 2007 sale of a £1.7m property in Bradford.

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The claimant said Hayre had discharged its retainer negligently in respect of a sub-sale and cost it £18,000 through wrong advice about the amount of stamp duty land tax payable. During a four-day hearing in the High Court (Chancery Division) in November, Mansion Estates alleged that a letter and attendance notes to support Hayre’s case were made up.

Hayre denied attaching the wrong plan to a TP1 transfer document and asserted that the correct advice was given with regard to the sub-sale of a section of land.

In Mansion Estates v Hayre & Co (a firm), His Honour Judge Saffman (pictured) said several aspects of the claimants’ case troubled him. These included that he had overvalued the original claim, alleged a conspiracy between the solicitor and lender and had taken a ‘scattergun’ approach to his allegations.

But the judge said the evidence of Hayre concerning the land claim ‘troubles me even more’. The court heard Hayre had sent a fax regarding another matter during the time his notes had said he was in consultation with Mansion Estates. A further plea that timings were unreliable because he did not wear a watch were ‘far from convincing’, said Saffman.

Hayre, the judge contended, had recalled details of meetings from eight years ago ‘with the sort of detail one might expect from a witness recounting things that had occurred only recently’.

Such were the extent of omissions when the claimant requested Hayre’s supporting documents that they believed he had ‘something to hide’.

Copies of files were not released until after a threat to report the matter to the Solicitors Regulation Authority, and the originals were stolen in a burglary reported in February 2012, although nothing else was taken. Hayre asserted that he suspected the claimant of arranging the burglary, a view that Saffman found ‘incredible’.

The judge said the claimant had surmounted the ‘inherent improbability’ hurdle and he made a ‘sad and highly regrettable finding’ that an attendance note from 2 November 2007 misrepresented the true position.

Saffman gave judgment to the claimant for £211,500 – the lost value of the land caused by the filing of the wrong plan. He also ordered Hayre & Co to pay £470 in costs of attempted cure and £18,000 in lost stamp duty savings.

Readers' comments (22)

  • And made no recommendation that he would refer the matter for investigation....?!!!

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  • It is remarkable just how many members of a supposedly respectable profession are willing to relate untruths in legal proceedings not on behalf of clients, which is within their remit as legal representatives, but on their own behalf.
    And if the firm in question had nothing to hide then it beggars belief they would have to be threatened with the SRA or that a burglar who apparently had no interest in any valuables or other case files should target documents from this one matter.

    Trust is an essential in the legal profession but how many practitioners would have acted similarly when facing the possibility of a large pay out should they fail to successfully defend the claim ? The question for those of us who would like to think we would act differently is "would we" ?

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  • Reading the judgment why was none of this apparent to those representing the defendant???
    Surely with this finding his PII will refuse to pay out although clearly they will have been the ones running it

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  • Those representing the defendant presumably had concerns about what conclusions the judge would reach, but it's not for them to make findings of fact. The judgment assumes that the defence was funded by insurers, but I'm not sure that that's right.

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  • I can categorically say that for me, William, the answer would be "yes, I would have acted differently". The trouble with not holding your hands up at an early stage is that you end up digging yourself a hole which is far deeper than the one you are already in.

    And the errors he was covering up would surely have been a bona fide insurance claim if he had just left it at that. And always assuming that he was insured, of course...

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  • Yes, David, but you are overlooking a minor detail. You, like me, were trained in an era of honesty and have continued to behave so. Unfortunately my experiences over the past twenty or so years have made me realise honesty is a very rare commodity in what was once a legal profession.

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  • David, you're dead right. I have only glanced at the judgment - saving it for later - but bits I've read have the sound of shovel digging deeper. So is Anon 4.46.

    I was admitted 50 years ago this month and remember being told that lose your good name was at the least ruinous.

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  • Regardless of when we trained (30 years ago for me) we ought to act differently. It was initially a claim of negligence and so covered by PII. Maybe he panicked but it was senseless trying to cover it up. The case probably dragged on for years increasing the damages by passage of time.

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  • Thank you, Anon 4.56 and Richard. This defendant committed perjury and forgery for goodness sake. Dishonesty was a "no no" in our day, but this is surely several categories worse than that.

    It seems to me that standards everywhere have fallen off a cliff since we trained. Bankers, MPs, accountants,civil servants, all people we were taught to believe implicitly now seem a very dodgy lot, well some of them anyway. There I go again generalising when I shouldn't.

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  • Was it Aleister Crowley who said: 'Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law'?This principle does seem to have been widely adopted by professions, businesses, politicians, etc. in the 21st century. I just wait for the first person specifically to assert it in their defence in litigation!

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