A former head of a firm’s personal injury department has agreed to be struck off after misleading clients and defendant solicitors.
Lynne Muscroft, formerly with Cheshire firm Slater Heelis, concealed her alleged negligence in handling claims through making a series of improper payments from other client accounts.
The firm reported her immediately to the SRA in 2014 after finding discrepancies in a number of files she had handled. No clients were adversely affected by her actions.
A Solicitors Regulation Authority investigation in 2016 found that Muscroft, 53, had told defendant solicitors in one dental negligence claim that her client had accepted an offer of £5,000. The client was not aware of this offer and had not instructed the solicitor to accept it. Instead, the client understood her settlement to be more than £60,000, despite there never having been an agreement between the parties in relation to this sum.
In an agreed statement presented to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal, Muscroft admitted she had authorised payments into the client ledger from unrelated client monies. She knew she was acting improperly and subsequently admitted to further misusing clients funds over a period spanning more than 10 years.
Muscroft, who spent her entire career at the firm before leaving in January 2014, admitted to acting dishonestly over a 10-month period in 2013 and agreed to be struck off the roll of solicitors. She also agreed to pay costs of £17,438.
In mitigation, she said she did not gain personally from her actions and that her misuse of client funds was a ‘misguided attempt to conclude cases to the satisfaction of clients and the firm’.
She accepted her circumstances were not such that she thought her actions were not dishonest.
In its statement of agreed facts, the SRA said Muscroft was a partner of the firm and chose to ‘deliberately mislead’ her client and the defendant solicitors.
It added: ‘Such actions were not in the best interests of each client, did not satisfy a proper standard of service to her clients and also undermined the trust and confidence the public placed in her and the provision of legal services.’
In a statement, Chris Bishop, managing partner at Slater Heelis LLP, said: 'In 2014, we discovered discrepancies in a number of files handled by Lynne Muscroft.
'We immediately reported her to the Solicitors Regulation Authority, terminated her contract and ensured none of her clients were adversely affected as a result of her actions.
'We complied fully with the SRA investigators who apportioned no blame to the firm and were complimentary about all we had done to assist with their investigation. We conducted a thorough review of our internal procedures and have enhanced them further.'