An overcharging solicitor whose sanction was increased from a fine to a strike-off by the High Court has expressed his ‘utter disbelief’ at the decision.
Andrew Good said he is now considering an appeal against the decision to uphold the SRA’s challenge that his £30,000 fine was too lenient.
The Hull solicitor had routinely charged £400 an hour for clinical negligence cases and found his costs bills drastically reduced on detailed assessment. Lord Justice Flaux said Good knew the bills were excessive and artificially high, and concluded he had acted dishonestly in charging such amounts.
In a statement, Good continued to stress that the tribunal found no financial loss to any party, including the NHS, and that he made no financial gain from his conduct.
'I’m in utter disbelief with the court’s findings, based on technical legal reasons, when the costs we claimed were put before and decided by a judge in court and a specialist costs judge has already made it clear that claiming the hourly rates and success fees which my firm claimed was not misconduct in his view,’ he said.
‘In fact, the first tribunal who heard all of the evidence confirmed that I was not dishonest and even commended me for approving the lowering of the hourly rates after running a test case to try to establish what figures were appropriate.’
Good said he remains proud of the work his firm Rapid Response carried out for clients who had often suffered life-changing injuries as a result of negligence.
In Solicitors Regulation Authority v Good, the judge recounted that the tribunal found Good set the £400 hourly rate and 100% success fee and had done so ‘as a matter of policy’ until at least September 2013 and on some matters thereafter. As well as the £400 hourly rate, a £250 hourly rate was charged for a Grade D fee earner (a trainee or paralegal). It was more than double the guideline rates for Hull and produced bills that were ‘unreasonable and disproportionate’. In one detailed assessment, a district judge reduced the bill of costs by 91%, with the success fee reduced to 25%. The tribunal recorded that the district judge had remarked ‘blimey’ when reminded of the original amount claimed.
The court heard Good believed he was entitled to ‘test the rate’ and that bills would be subject to scrutiny by the courts and costs experts.
NHS Resolution, whose predecessor body NHSLA was the defendant in the relevant cases, welcomed the court’s judgment, having first reported concerns about excessive charging behaviour to the SRA in 2013.
Helen Vernon, chief executive, said: ‘NHS Resolution will not hesitate to take action where it is confronted with dishonest behaviour. This is public money and Mr Good’s actions were an attempt on funds which should be used for patient care.’