Two long-serving solicitors have been fined for not complying with accounting rules and failing to properly steward client money. Peter Brogan and Martin Steven Baddiel were ordered by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal to pay £7,501 and £8,500 respectively. They were also ordered to pay costs of £20,823 on a joint and several basis.
Brogan, admitted in 1973, and Baddiel, admitted in 1979, practise in partnership at Manchester firm Howarth Goodman.
After an inspection of the firm’s book of accounts in 2017, the Solicitors Regulation Authority accused the two solicitors of failing to ensure that their client account was being operated properly in accordance with the SRA Accounts Rules 2011 (SAR).
It alleged that Baddiel and Brogan had caused or allowed a cash shortage of over £110,000 to exist on the client account. According to the SRA, they also allowed client money to be transferred from client bank account to office account in relation to costs in round sums and without properly allocating those transfers to client matters.
Among other allegations, the SRA accused the solicitors of failing to protect client money and not behaving in a way that maintained public trust. According to the judgment, Brogan and Baddiel admitted all allegations.
The tribunal found beyond reasonable doubt that ‘in failing to ensure that the books of accounts complied with the SAR and failing to exercise proper stewardship in relation to client money the respondents had breached the SAR’.
However, the tribunal noted that the respondents both had lengthy, previously unblemished, disciplinary records and that there was no suggestion of improper motive.
In mitigation, the respondents mentioned they had both been on sick leave in 2017 and their long-term practice manager had left the firm in 2016, requiring them to hire a new bookkeeper.