A solicitor has ended a 50-year career in the law by being struck off after using almost £84,000 in client funds to pay his struggling firm’s bills. John Leonard Turner admitted repeatedly dipping into client funds to pay monthly outgoings.
The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal found no ‘nefarious motivation’ for Turner’s conduct but ruled he had acted dishonestly and thus should be removed from the profession.
Turner, admitted in 1972, practised on his own account at Surrey firm Lindsay Salt and Turner for four years until October 2018.
Analysis of the firm’s records found that over 18 months and on 18 separate occasions, Turner withdrew amounts ranging from £1,000 to £10,000 from the client account and transferred them into the office account. He took this action without the consent of clients.
Turner said it was always his intention to replace the funds once he overcame his financial difficulties.
During a one-day hearing last month at which Turner appeared but was not represented, the solicitor asked for his regret and wholehearted apology to be placed on record.
‘I have worked in the law for over 50 years. It has been my life and although there have been many challenges and stresses it has been all I wanted to do serving my clients and my community. Its loss I feel deeply and considerably more than the financial repercussions, not made any easier by the realisation that it is all my own fault. It has left a big hole in my life.’
The tribunal paid credit to Turner for attending the hearing to apologise. While his misconduct was deemed dishonest, deliberate and calculated, it was accepted he was trying to maintain the firm or wind it down in an orderly manner.
The SRA applied for £8,700 costs, which the tribunal accepted were proportionate, but Turner was ordered to pay £500 on account of his limited means.