A gambling addict who stole £14,000 from client accounts has been banned from the profession.
Stewart Costello was struck off by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal following a hearing in September having been jailed for 14 months for two counts of fraud in April 2014.
Costello was an assistant solicitor at south-west firm Harris Fowler when he arranged the transfer of client monies from the client account to his personal account.
The sum, which came to a total of £14,000, came from compensation payments obtained for clients in personal injury claims. The firm repaid the clients’ money in full.
The tribunal heard that Costello explained his offences were caused by a compulsive disorder for which he had received medical treatment. He stressed there is now ‘no suggestion’ he was a continuing risk.
From March 2013 to September 2013 he placed bets valued at around £500,000 and lost some £20,000 in that time.
The judge in the 2014 case, sitting at Taunton Crown Court, had noted Costello was a man of previous good character who was unlikely to offend again after seeking treatment.
The tribunal said it had regard to these remarks, as well as mitigation offered by Costello in an email, but said his misconduct was of the ‘utmost seriousness’ having deliberately taken £14,000 from clients.
The tribunal ordered that Costello be struck off. The Solicitors Regulation Authority, which brought the prosecution, asked for costs of £3,586, which were reduced to £2,500.