A solicitor who momentarily snapped at a client with an ‘inappropriate and offensive’ comment has been publicly rebuked by the regulator.
Richard Anthony Bull, a director of Essex firm A H Page, admitted making the comment to his blind client when she visited his office.
According to a regulatory settlement agreement published by the Solicitors Regulation Authority, Bull had been instructed to act in a probate matter. The client was registered blind and in deteriorating health, requiring extra support in administering her late father’s estate.
Knowing that the client's eyesight was getting worse, Bull corresponded in what he said was the largest type size the firm could manage. When she attended the firm to ask for a form to be enlarged further, Bull said it was not possible, then added: ‘Do you want me to come to your house and paint it all over the walls?’
Bull immediately apologised for the comment, which was made in front of others, but the client reported the matter to the SRA, saying she felt ‘belittled and discriminated against’.
The SRA said the subsequent public rebuke was appropriate to reflect the seriousness of Bull’s misconduct and that it affected a vulnerable person.
Bull admitted breaching the SRA principle to maintain trust in himself and the provision of legal services. In mitigation, taken into account by the SRA, he submitted that the comment was ‘made in a moment of frustration and without prior thought or reflection’, this was an isolated incident and out of character, and that he apologised immediately and expressed remorse.
Bull considered he always had a good relationship with the client, which continues to this day, and both he and his wife have provided her with support outside the solicitor-client relationship.
He will pay the £300 costs of the SRA’s investigation.