‘Without conscience’ solicitor struck off for defrauding friends

Topics: Regulation and compliance

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A solicitor has been struck off after he deceived a friend into lending him money to pay his children’s school fees, under the pretence he would use it to resolve cashflow problems at his firm.

John Anthony Connolly, a non-practising solicitor admitted in 1997, approached a former colleague for a loan of £25,540 in September 2013, claiming that his law firm was suffering cashflow problems and that a client had issued bankruptcy proceedings against him.

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But in reality he had not held a practising certificate for four years, and a few months earlier he had been made bankrupt following a petition by a trade creditor.

According to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal, the real reason he wanted the money was to pay his children’s school fees.

Although Connolly told his friend that he would pay back the money at the end of the month with interest after his parents returned from holiday, the tribunal found that the money was never returned.

The following year he convinced a friend from university to lend him £1,000 after he said that he had been the victim of credit card fraud in South Africa. 

He again said that his parents could not help as they were travelling, and said he would repay the loan on their return.

But the loan was never repaid and was used immediately to repay one of his family members.

According to the tribunal judgment, when the money was not returned his friend found out about the bankruptcy and made a complaint to the official receiver.

Connolly pleaded guilty to fraud at Liverpool and Knowsley Magistrates’ Court (pictured) in relation to the £25,540 loan, and was sentenced to five months in jail, suspended for two years. He was also ordered to carry out 150 hours of unpaid work for his first offence.

For the £1,000 loan he was sentenced to one month’s imprisonment, suspended for two years to run consecutively to the first sentence. He was ordered to do another 150 hours of unpaid work. 

The tribunal said it was concerned that the frauds had been perpetrated against Connolly’s personal friends, causing them ‘significant financial loss’.

It added: ‘The respondent had taken advantage of the individuals at the time without any conscience.’

Connolly was struck off and ordered to pay costs of £1,700.

Readers' comments (6)

  • Five months in jail suspended. Five months less half off for "good bahaviour" means at most he will spend 10 weeks in clink. £25,540 divided by ten equals £2,554 per week tax free.
    And let us not forget this was a "stiff" penalty because he defrauded his friends.
    What better incentive could there be for being dishonest

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  • He did not spend any time in prison. The sentence was suspended for two years and, provided he kept his nose clean for that time, that was that.

    Why was the case heard by magistrates given the facts?

    I note he had been made bankrupt before the offences. When I started in the law it was made clear that bankruptcy automatically led to striking off. Maybe this should be reinstated?

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  • But presumably there is nothing stopping his former friends from suing him to try to get their money back.

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  • Bankruptcy *suspends* a practising certificate, as can (if the SRA direct) a fraud conviction. Probably the reason why the description was "non-practising solicitor". In such a case, it seems unclear why there is a need for the SDT to get involved and incur any costs at all, let alone £1,700. He was obviously going to get struck off and he had been adjudicated bankrupt by one court and convicted of fraud by another. Why waste £1,700 reading out the details of these matters to an empty room. Just strike off automatically.

    Furthermore there are various offences under the Insolvency Act for this sort of thing.

    The courts used to be able to suspend a bankrupt's discharge in a situation like this, conditional upon him / her making repayment of some or all of the debts. But that goes against the current thinking.

    Indeed had said solicitor been a company director, so long as he greased the palm of a friendly insolvency practitioner with sufficient gold, he'd have been able legitimately to run up new debts faster than you can say "pre-pack administration with no return to creditors". And nobody would have batted an eyelid.

    Had said solicitor been a director in a bank's city trading subsidiary, and defrauded not £25k but £25,000,000, he'd have got a knighthood!

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  • Seems like I am not allowed to say where this man comes from...

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  • 150 hours of unpaid work!!!!! On the £25k fraud he's earned £170 per hour. Totally rediculous.

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