A solicitor who attached the wrong map to a Land Registry application has been fined by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal.
Lesley Charne Seifert, admitted more than 40 years ago, admitted to attaching the incorrect map to a HM Land Registry application for the adverse possession of a strip of land. However, she denied acting dishonestly and without integrity, as alleged by the Solicitors Regulation Authority.
The attached map, which showed adjacent gardens and a strip of land running along the back, was not identical to one shown to the couple who signed the statutory declaration. The SRA alleged that ‘by in effect switching the maps, the respondent’s actions were said to have had the effect of changing the meaning of the statutory declaration, because the document specifically referred to the map’.
Seifert argued that the submission of this plan ‘did not assist the application for adverse possession made by her clients in any way’ and the ‘exercise was carried out in haste’. She added that while she took ‘ultimate responsibility’ for the inaccuracies, her secretary made all of the applications to HM Land Registry.
The tribunal did not consider that the admitted conduct amounted to dishonesty or a failure to act with integrity. The judgment states: ‘In circumstances where the new map which was attached to the statutory declaration had the effect of correcting the application so that the map reflected the previously approved text, and where an essentially administrative task had been delegated to a trusted and long-serving secretary the tribunal did not consider that the respondent’s admitted failure could be said to amount to a failure to adhere to the ethical standards of the profession.’
It found Seifert had not acted without integrity and had not acted dishonestly. It also noted that the incidents ‘took place within a very short period of a long and otherwise unblemished career’.
Seifert was ordered to pay a £3,000 fine. However, both parties invited the tribunal to make no order as to costs.