A solicitor has agreed to leave the profession after moving almost £28,000 from a client’s account to pay for other clients’ nursing home fees.
Nigel Riches, of Hampshire firm Eric Robinson Solicitors, acted as assistant solicitor for three clients in separate and unrelated matters, but moved £20,160 from one client's account without authorisation to pay another’s nursing home fees.
On another occasion, he made payments of £7,810 from the first client’s bank account to pay for a third client’s nursing home fees. These were made after the death of the first client and without any authorisation.
Riches, who was admitted as a solicitor in 1976, said the payments were made as a loan to the second and third clients. Questioned by the Solicitors Regulation Authority whether the first client’s attorneys or executors knew about the loan being advanced, Riches confirmed they did not.
Similarly, the attorneys for clients two and three were not aware that a loan was being advanced to them with interest payable.
Riches retired from the firm in July 2013 but did not repay any part of the loans. The client account shortfall was discovered by the firm in August 2014 and the partners immediately replaced the shortage.
An SRA investigation found that Riches had made unauthorised and improper withdrawals from a client account and breached two of its principles and one of the SRA accounts rules.
He also failed to seek instructions from client one’s attorneys or executors to advance a loan, or from the other clients’ attorneys to commit to a loan where interest would be payable.
In a notice posted on the SRA website, Riches accepted the facts and allegations and further accepted that he misused client money by making unauthorised and improper withdrawals from the firm’s client account.
He apologised to all concerned for the trouble caused and said he had pursued a course of action which he believed was right. He also said he was suffering from stress at the time due to a heavy workload and a level of responsibility that he found difficult to cope with.
The SRA agreed to Riches removing himself voluntarily from the roll and he had said he has no intention of renewing his practising certificate or of practising again in the future.