A former accounts manager who used his position to steal £32,568 from client accounts has been banned from working with the profession.

A Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal hearing earlier this month heard that Andrew Neil Stephenson was sentenced to 16 months imprisonment in February 2015.

Stephenson, who worked for Middlesbrough firm Thorp Parker for 15 years, had pleaded guilty at Teesside Crown Court to one count of fraud by abuse of position.

The tribunal heard Stephenson transferred the money over a period of three years from a client account into an account he had set up purely for the fraud.

In sentencing, His Honour Judge Bourne-Arton QC had described Stephenson's behaviour as a ‘serious breach of trust’ and a ‘sophisticated offence in the sense that you concealed the matter from your employer for some three years’.

The tribunal found it proven beyond reasonable doubt that Stephenson was guilty of dishonesty.

It was ordered that he may not be employed by any solicitor's firm in future, except in accordance with SRA permission.

The Solicitors Regulation Authority, which prosecuted Stephenson, sought costs of £3,600.

These were agreed by both parties, but Stephenson informed the tribunal that he was unemployed and living off benefits, with no property or savings. The tribunal ruled the costs order be deferred until he was in a position to pay the costs in future, subject to an application from the SRA.