I wish to alert colleagues to the danger of posting cheques to clients. We sent two cheques payable to our client who acknowledged them and sent them to his own bank by post. But his bank did not receive them. The cheques were instead paid into a new account at Barclays, then moved to a current account, and subsequently withdrawn as cash from Tottenham Court Road in London.

We alleged that Barclays had not done a proper ID check, had allowed stolen funds to be laundered through them and had participated in a fraudulent transaction. They were bullish and relied on the Cheques Act and the case of Tournier v National Provincial and Union Bank of England [1924] 1KB461, claiming that we had to repay our client and that they, like our client, were the victims. They said that their ‘duty of confidentiality’ to their customer meant they would not disclose his identity or, as we asked, refer the fraud to the authorities.

We complained to the Financial Ombudsman which found that the new account was opened with French ID. The fake signature was different on more than one document, with the fraudster repeatedly mis-spelling his own alleged name, which the ombudsman found inconceivable. Barclays eventually admitted its mistake, and refunded our client his money plus interest. It also paid compensation for distress and inconvenience caused by not settling sooner, together with his legal fees.

FA Fitz-Graham, Fitzgraham Solicitors, St Leonards-on-Sea