A solicitor who lied about witnessing a signature on mortgage documents to rush through a transaction has been struck off the roll.
Stewart Stocker, admitted in 2008, told another law firm he had witnessed the signing in his office by a mother and son seeking to borrow £945,000.
The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal heard that Stocker, 38 this year, felt ‘pushed into a corner’ by tight deadlines and felt pressure to meet the date.
But the tribunal found he had been dishonest and could not explain away his conduct as a misunderstanding.
The documents, including an identity certificate of satisfaction, loan facility letter and legal mortgage, were supposed to be signed by both clients in the solicitor’s presence. Stocker duly sent an email to the vendor's firm in January 2017 attaching the documents and confirmed he would send the originals in the post. He also called to assure the firm that both clients had attended in person.
Stocker, a member of niche London firm Lauriston Saggar, confirmed he had also seen passports, bank statements and driving licence for identification.
But the company advancing the loan discovered the mother had been in Nigeria at the time of the purported meeting and had not been due to arrive back in the UK until the following day. This was reported to the law firm receiving the documents, which reported the matter to the Solicitors Regulation Authority.
Stocker initially said there had been a ‘misunderstanding’ and he did not accept he acted dishonestly. He admitted making a mistake in sending documents without indicating some were signed in escrow but denied acting dishonestly.
The tribunal judgment said: ‘Considerable harm had been caused because activity such as this was harmful to the whole conveyancing system and to the reputation of the profession. The harm was reasonably foreseeable; [Stocker] must have been aware that as a result of his actions the mortgage could have completed based on a falsehood.’
Stocker, who has not practised since May 2017, was struck off and ordered to pay £4,980 costs.