A solicitor who retained almost £70,000 intended for professional disbursements and insurance premiums has been struck off the roll.
Martyn Robert Brown, who was admitted as a solicitor in 1998 and was a sole practitioner at Integrum Law in Birkenhead, retained £69,177.22 owed to experts and counsel and failed to remedy the situation, the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal found.
An inspection by a forensic investigation officer (FIO) in April 2018 found that £49,000 of unpaid professional disbursements and £20,000 of unpaid after-the-event (ATE) premiums did not appear on the firm’s books, the tribunal judgment states.
A sample of 22 documents showed that some unpaid professional disbursements and ATE premiums dated back to 2012.
In a letter to the SRA in 2018, Brown acknowledged the shortfall. However, according to the judgment, he said he did not have sufficient funds to replace the shortage.
The tribunal found that Brown ‘made a conscious decision not to pay the third parties to whom the monies were owed for as long as he could, before he was chased for payment’.
It added: ‘The motivation for the respondent’s conduct was to keep his firm afloat and improve his cash low, without any regard for others...The respondent had effectively been stealing from the professionals to whom that money was due in order to finance his firm.’
The tribunal concluded that Brown had acted dishonestly and that his conduct had been deliberate, calculated and repeated over a period of four years. It ordered that he be removed from the roll of solicitors.
The tribunal did note, however, that the respondent had cooperated with the regulator and the proceedings, and that he had made admissions.
Brown, who did not attend the hearing and who was not represented, was ordered to pay costs of £9,068.
This was not the first time the respondent appeared before the tribunal. According to the judgment, in 2009 Brown was one of five individuals found to have breached account rules in a case related to the misappropriation of client funds by an employee who had not been adequately supervised.