A sole practitioner who filed an incorrect plan with the Land Registry – then falsified attendance notes to cover up his mistake – has been struck off.
Baljinder Hayre, who practised at Hayre & Co in Bradford, relied on the notes in his defence of a civil claim brought by a client. He knew the notes were not accurate and was found to have acted dishonestly.
The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal heard that Hayre, a solicitor for 17 years, was instructed in 2006 to purchase a plot of land for £1.7m. The SRA told the tribunal he had signed a document to confirm he was happy with the apportioning of the land for a sub sale, and contended he then filed the wrong plan with the Land Registry, which significantly reduced the value of the land. His actions were alleged to have led to the client suffering a financial loss and the client’s business was subsequently awarded £229,970 in civil proceedings.
In the conclusion to those proceedings, Judge Saffman had said a ‘significant proportion’ of the evidence provided by Hayre contained within attendance notes was not credible. Hayre had told the court he stored the original purchase file on a window sill and realised in 2014 it had been stolen during a burglary two years earlier. Saffman J had found this conclusion ‘incredible’, the SRA submitted.
The SRA alleged that between October 2009 and February 2010 Hayre falsified file notes from years earlier to represent discussion, advice and/or instructions that had not taken place. These notes were used in the civil proceedings, after which Saffman J said their integrity was ‘materially compromised’.
Hayre denied filing the wrong plan at the Land Registry and said he had warned his client about the implications of a disputed boundary issue. While he respected the decision to award the client damages in the civil proceedings, he ‘fundamentally disagreed’ with the findings.
Hayre maintained his file notes and their contents were accurate. He noted the judge had made no findings of dishonesty, and had described the solicitor as being negligent rather than dishonest.
But the tribunal said it was sure to the requisite standard that Hayre falsified attendance notes and their contents, then relied on them in civil proceedings. He had gone to ‘considerable lengths’ to seek to persuade the court he had not acted as alleged and maintained this position throughout cross-examination. The findings of the judge ‘intrinsically involved deliberate concealment of the true position’.
The tribunal added: ‘Whilst he was relatively inexperienced, the need to avoid misrepresenting client instructions and presenting an inaccurate position to the court was so fundamental that [Hayre] must have been aware his actions were unacceptable.’
He was struck off the roll and ordered to pay £7,470 costs.