A long-serving solicitor has agreed to be struck off over a conveyancing transaction dating back 11 years. Clive Leslie Billington, a sole practitioner with Preston firm Dowson Billington, made the agreed outcome with the Solicitors Regulation Authority, which was approved by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal at a hearing in April.
Billington admitted that in a leasehold sale from 2008, he had recently acted for both parties in a sub-sale transaction of the property, then failed to disclose this fact to his lender client Barclays Bank. He failed to advise Barclays of the true nature of the previous transactions, failed to provide the bank with all the necessary information, and ultimately favoured the interests of one client over those of Barclays.
In 2016 another law firm reported the matter to the SRA after their insurer client had declined to cover a claim by Barclays for losses arising out of conveyancing transactions in which Billington had acted. This complaint stated that Barclays was not told of the sub-sale of the property, nor of the prior transaction at all.
In mitigation put forward by Billington but not endorsed by the SRA, the solicitor of 32 years said he genuinely believed the bank knew about the structure of the transaction, although he accepted he should have reported the sub-sale. He submitted he was caught up in the transaction and the pressure to make progress on the matter.
The tribunal heard that Billington was personally liable to the bank on any claim for professional negligence and breach of trust, and he had settled one claim with Barclays for £195,000 payable out of his own property. Billington has now paid a further £30,000 to Barclays in full and final settlement.
Billington estimated it would cost £25,000 to contest the allegations made against him, and he lacked the ‘financial, emotional, personal means or mental strength’ to face a full SDT hearing.
He apologised for his conduct and deeply regretted appearing before the tribunal after a previously unblemished career. He was struck off and agreed to pay £2,500 costs.