A solicitor who took advantage of vulnerable clients to wrongly charge them hundreds of thousands of pounds has been struck off the roll.
Alex Richard Guy admitted that over two and a half years, while acting as one client’s deputy, he raised bills of costs amounting to almost £272,000 for work not undertaken. With another client, he charged almost £59,000 for work that was not chargeable.
On both occasions, monies were transferred into the office account of his firm, Yorkshire practice Switalskis Solicitors, where he was director and head of its Court of Protection department. All monies have since been returned by the firm.
Guy also admitted using a third client’s money to buy products worth £3,100 from an Apple store and keeping an iPhone 11 Pro Max worth £1,500 for his own use.
The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal heard that Guy’s conduct was dishonest, deliberate, occurred over a period of time and involved taking advantage of vulnerable people.
Guy, admitted in 2008, had initially been charged with transferring more than £900,000 from clients’ bank accounts into his own name, but these allegations – which he denied – were dropped as part of an agreed outcome with the SRA on the eve of the tribunal hearing.
Guy had also applied to the SDT for his judgment to be embargoed for at least six months pending the outcome of an ongoing police investigation. The tribunal rejected this application, saying criminal proceedings were speculative and not yet underway, and chose to publish its ruling in full.
Guy had started as a trainee with HLW Keeble Hawson and joined Switalskis in 2016 when it acquired Keebles’ Court of Protection department.
During an internal Switalskis investigation, the firm identified concerns about the raising of bills of costs for work not undertaken. Guy was suspended with immediate effect and the matter reported to the SRA and the Office of the Public Guardian.
Guy was appointed as deputy to make decisions on behalf of clients in relation to their property and affairs. One such client had been awarded £1.5m lump sum and periodical payments after a clinical negligence claim, most of which was paid into his deputy account.
Guy then rendered bills which had not been assessed by costs judges and were not permitted. The invoices for £273,000 were based on just 65 hours of work recorded on the ledger.
In his only mitigation, not endorsed by the SRA, Guy said he sincerely apologised to all involved and while there were personal circumstances that affected his decision-making, he was ashamed of his actions and thoroughly embarrassed.
On the Apple products purchase, which involved another clinical negligence claimant, Guy said they were bought for the client and he had intended to reimburse him for the phone but had not got round to it.
The tribunal said he had caused significant harm to the reputation of the profession and harmed vulnerable people who had placed trust in him. He was struck off and ordered to pay £17,000 costs.