A solicitor who forged documents and misled public authorities to hide his mistakes has been struck off the roll.
Martin Edward Burnett, a solicitor for 15 years, was found to have been dishonest in his handling of probate and conveyancing matters that he had failed to deal with properly.
The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal heard Burnett created and presented a false grant of probate to a building society; deliberately altered the transaction date on a TR2 property registration form; and forged the signature of a client on another form.
He also forged the signatures of lenders on a DS1 property form.
In the probate matter, Burnett admitted to a director of his firm that he forged the document to allow a transaction to proceed ‘when he had slept on his oars and not acted quickly enough’. His misconduct came to the attention of the Solicitors Regulation Authority following a review and subsequent report from his firm, named in the tribunal judgment as BPK Limited.
The SRA said Burnett had been motivated to act as he did to avoid SDLT penalty charges, avoid requisitions from the Land Registry, and avoid or minimise further questions from his lender client. These were not isolated acts, the regulator argued, but amounted to a course of conduct over three years – none of which he reported.
The tribunal concluded that Burnett, who is 49 this year, wanted to avoid difficult conversations with clients and his firm, covering up mistakes made in the course of his practice: ‘He had produced forms, created letters and carried on the deception through correspondence. He had breached trust as an executor of a will, [and] breached the trust placed in him by clients, as well as by his employers.’
Burnett, who was unrepresented at the tribunal and not present, offered no mitigation, and none was found by the tribunal. He was ordered to pay £10,557 in costs.