A solicitor who persuaded a vulnerable client to pay almost £5,000 into her personal bank account and subsequently tried to cover it up has been struck off by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal.
Vidal Eulalie Martin, admitted in 2005, was practising at Essex firm Bright and Sons when she persuaded ‘Ms X’ to write a £4,700 cheque payable to her personally, under the pretext the money would be spent on repairs to a property Ms X had inherited. According to the judgment, more than £2,200 of the credited sum was spent before the respondent received her next monthly salary. Martin claimed she became aware of the cheque only when told about it by an investigation officer over six years later.
The tribunal said while it considered Ms X’s evidence to be ‘generally unreliable’ and to have ‘racial overtones’, it accepted the ‘essence of her account’. It added that Martin’s evidence had been ‘hesitant, evasive and lacking credibility’.
The SDT found that Martin had acted dishonestly and without integrity, and had undermined public trust. It added that her actions were a ‘complete departure from the integrity and probity required from solicitors’ and her motivation was ‘personal enrichment’.
The tribunal also found that Martin had made misleading statements to the forensic investigating officer during an investigation into her conduct.
In mitigation, Martin’s counsel submitted that she was a ‘single parent with two wholly or partly dependent children’. The events were ‘truly exceptional, and the impact on the respondent was likely to be devastating’ and a finding of dishonesty did not always mean a strike off is appropriate.
Martin was struck off and ordered to pay costs of £47,515.