The Solicitors Regulation Authority has revisited a seven-year-old prosecution to claim costs after finding the sanctioned solicitor’s house had rocketed in value in the meantime.
According to a Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal judgment published this week, the SRA applied for costs from Richard Stephen Brickley, who was suspended for three months for accounts rule breaches in October 2010.
Brickley has also been ordered to pay £24,000 in costs, but enforcement was deferred due to his financial position at the time.
The SDT judgment records that the SRA wrote in June this year to Brickley to say a property he jointly owned had increased in value by £169,000 since 2011. This was based on an estimate – which the SRA agreed was not ‘particularly accurate’ - by online valuation company Zoopla.
The SRA argued it would be unjust for it to be prejudiced in its enforcement rights compared with other creditors. The regulator said Brickley is now employed and has a monthly income and could afford to pay the outstanding debt.
Brickley, who had been a partner at south Wales firm Gartsides Solicitors, explained the sanction by the tribunal had a ‘catastrophic effect’ on him and he had been unemployed for some time before finding his current job.
He acknowledged that the application had to be considered on his current financial circumstances but pointed out those circumstances had changed very little in terms of available net disposable income.
He rejected the valuation’s accuracy as it did not take into account the particular circumstances of the property, and he stated the amount secured under the mortgage had also risen since 2011.
The parties came to an agreement last month that the SRA would delay enforcement of the costs order by 18 months. The tribunal agreed this was proportionate and pragmatic. The £1,341 costs of the latest application will be added to the eventual total.