A dishonest solicitor who, under the pretence of a loan, transferred thousands of pounds from the client account of a woman suffering dementia has been struck off the roll. 

Phillip Charles York, 78 this year, failed to complete an estate distribution for Mrs JW after her husband died intestate and instead transferred almost £88,000 out of the client account to himself. The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal heard these transfers included 33 payments over almost six years. 

York originally said the transfers related to the costs of dealing with the estate, despite the file having only 15 pieces of correspondence and the estate consisting of one major asset, sold in 2010. 

He then said Mrs JW had agreed to loan him the money, despite there being no evidence on the file, and the limited mental capacity of the client to enter into any such contract. 

In an interview with the Solicitors Regulation Authority, York, who practised on his own account from Ealing in south London, admitted he should not have taken the money. He had done so partly to pay his rent, he said. 

The tribunal said it was clear that Mrs JW was in no position to instruct York to deal with the estate, let alone agree to a loan, after she was formally diagnosed with dementia. 

‘[She did not have the mental capacity to give [York] permission to borrow money and he had taken advantage of this by taking and using funds from [her husband’s] estate without any authority to do so for his own personal benefit.’ 

The tribunal found York had also concealed his behaviour from another client by producing interim bills which were not sent and then deducting client money to pay those ‘bills’. In total he asked three more clients to loan him money without telling them he had already taken that sum from their funds. 

York had already appeared before the tribunal in 1991 and was fined £1,000 over the ‘appalling’ state of his books and records. 

He did not appear before the tribunal, having said he could not afford flights to England from his West Indies home. In mitigation, he stated he was made bankrupt in August this year and made reference to obtaining a £100,000 loan to repay the sums he had borrowed from the estates. The tribunal found no evidence of insight or contrition other than the claim he had taken out this loan. 

He was struck off and ordered to pay £14,500 costs.