A solicitor has admitted creating six false letters to make it appear he was progressing his client’s case. Neil Ian Benson, formerly with London practice Hamlins LLP, placed the letters on the firm’s document management system in September 2014 but dated them between May 2013 and September 2014.
The letters appeared to show him lodging an application for registration based on adverse possession at the Land Registry, then chasing up that application.
His misconduct came to light in November 2014 when his client raised concerns with the firm that no progress was being made in connection with the claim. The client had chased Benson on 14 occasions since between February 2013 and August 2014 for an update in relation to the claim.
The Land Registry confirmed no application had been received, and the firm also found no indication on the financial ledger that a cheque had been drawn for payment of disbursements in support of the claim.
During a meeting between the firm and Benson, he admitted falsely creating the six letters, and the matter was reported to the Solicitors Regulation Authority. In an agreed statement of facts drawn up with the regulator, Benson admitted dishonesty and failing to materially progress a claim on behalf of his client.
In mitigation, Benson, 47 and a solicitor for 21 years, said he was dealing with extremely challenging personal circumstances at the time of the events in question, and those circumstances affected his decision making. He submitted he was suffering from stress and depression and provided medical evidence in this regard.
The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal asserted that his misconduct had continued over several months, involved dishonesty and was designed to conceal wrongdoing.
He was struck off the roll of solicitors and ordered to pay £5,429 costs.