A conveyancing solicitor with more than 40 years’ experience has been fined for backdating a key document in a commercial property transaction.
The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal heard David Partington admitted backdating the TR1 Land Registry transfer document by two weeks at the request of his client.
Partington, then a director of Staffordshire firm Garner Canning, authorised the amendment in the summer of 2013 in relation to the £80,000 purchase of a south Wales supermarket.
A joint trustee of the property had died intestate in 2011 and a dispute then arose about future ownership. Partington’s client, referred to as Mr JK, asked him to backdate the transfer form to avoid the possibility of other parties placing restrictions on the title.
The Solicitors Regulation Authority, prosecuting, said the simple fact of altering the date on a formal transactional document was suggestive of a lack of integrity, and Partington ought to have checked the status of the property dispute.
Solicitor Gary Christianson, representing Partington, said the conveyancer had faced up to his error and co-operated with the SRA.
Partington, the tribunal heard, had enjoyed an unblemished career for 41 years and this misconduct was an ‘aberration’ from his usual behaviour.
It was submitted that Partington, who turns 70 next year, had been off work following a family bereavement and house fire. When he returned, JK had pestered him to alter the document, an act that Partington accepted was wrong.
Testimonials on behalf of the solicitor were given by a former president of the Birmingham Law Society and by His Honour Judge Griffith-Jones, of Warwick Crown Court.
The tribunal accepted that Partington, now working as a consultant, had no personal motivation for backdating the transfer document, except to keep his client happy.
‘The misconduct was a single episode in an otherwise good career,’ the judgment states. ‘The tribunal was satisfied that [Partington] had shown insight into his misconduct, and this was determined by his open and frank admissions.’
The tribunal fined him £7,500 and ordered him to pay £5,650 costs.