A case brought by the Solicitors Regulation Authority against a solicitor who used a client account as a banking facility has been described as at times ‘verging on the shambolic’.
Mark Lorrell was found to have used a client account as a banking facility and was ordered to pay £35,000 in costs as well being suspended for three months.
But the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal, in a judgment handed down on 13 September, said that ‘at times the case had verged on the shambolic’ due to late evidence that could have seen some of the charges not brought in the first place.
The case centred on a client account at Lorrells LLP belonging to City Equities Limited. The SRA accused Lorrell of operating a facility for CEL from which drawings were ‘made to order’.
Although Lorrell admitted to that charge, several other allegations were unproven.
These included that Lorrell had failed to comply with anti-money laundering legislation and had ‘fabricated’ a letter intended to mislead third parties into believing that he was justified in paying money out of a client account.
Most of the allegations centred on a letter, referred to as ‘29(b)’ that set out the terms of a retainer between Lorrell and CEL.
The SDT said it was ‘exceedingly perturbed’ that new materials kept emerging, including different versions of the letter.
Barrister Thomas Buxton, who represented Lorrell, said he was ‘very concerned’ that there was additional material from files initially prepared by the SRA’s forensic investigation officer that came to light during the trial he had not seen and that could be relevant.
‘The tribunal considered that this situation should not have arisen. It was most unsatisfactory that relevant documents had not been identified and disclosed until this late stage,’ the SDT said.
‘If their existence had been realised earlier this might have resulted in some of the allegations not being brought. This would have had an impact on the costs incurred.’
A spokesperson for the SRA told the Gazette: ‘Now that we have the SDT’s decision, we will be looking at our next steps.'