A solicitor who caused an account shortfall of over £880,000 after using client money to pay his own office fees and to cover up earlier misconduct has been struck off by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal.
Richard Clive Hallows, admitted in 1983, showed ‘complete disregard and contempt for the rules that protect client monies’, the tribunal found. Hallows was accused by the regulator of making improper withdrawals or/and transfers in respect of up to five client accounts while working as a sole practitioner.
In one instance, Hallows paid £404,000 out of the client account to a different client to satisfy previous liabilities.
The tribunal also found that Hallows artificially inflated the balance of the client account by paying in cheques that were never going to clear from a company he was connected to through his wife.
The tribunal found that the respondent had been operating a system of ‘teeming and lading’ and ‘was motivated by his desire to use client monies for his own purposes’.
Hallows 'caused huge damage to the reputation of the profession', the tribunal concluded. 'His clients had suffered significant harm, with a number of them having to be recompensed by the compensation fund. His conduct had been a complete departure from the standards expected of him by the profession and the public. The respondent’s conduct was aggravated by his proven and admitted dishonesty, which was in material breach of his obligation to protect the public and maintain public confidence in the reputation of the profession.’
A client account shortfall of at least £884,580 as at 31 January 2018 has not been made good.
Hallows, who was subject to police bail at the time of the disciplinary hearing, was struck off by the tribunal. He was also ordered to pay costs of £63,320.