A solicitor has been struck off after filing a misleading witness statement to cover up a dates mix-up seven months previously.
Michael O’Maoileoin, then an insolvency specialist in the London office of Hugh James, stated to the High Court that a key document had been misfiled and the error had only came to his attention weeks later.
O’Maoileoin faced a negligence claim from a former client after they had failed to attend court to face an application for summary judgment against them.
The solicitor, 50, had failed to inform the client about the hearing after mistakenly noting the date as 14 not 4 August. He became aware of the error when a winding up petition was made the following January: nevertheless he filed the witness statement in March it contained untruths. He made a partial admission to his firm a week later and made a second witness statement, this time accepting his error, after a month.
The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal heard that O’Maoileoin, who has since practised for three years as a self-employed consultant, plead that he was under pressure at the time and felt that ‘everything was collapsing around me’.
But the Solicitors Regulation Authority, prosecuting, told the tribunal that stress and pressure of the job were ‘an occupational hazard, not an exceptional circumstance’.
The tribunal rejected O’Maoileoin’s explanation that he was trying to protect his firm. ‘An experienced solicitor in a supportive environment, [he] made a mistake and covered it up with lies to the court,’ said the tribunal. 'He was, ultimately, found out in his deception. [He] repeatedly said he was "panicked" but dishonesty, not panic, was at the root of [his] conduct.’
O’Maoileoin was struck off and ordered to pay £7,391 costs.