• Application 11488-2016

• Admitted 1991

• Hearing 27 September 2016

• Reasons 12 October 2016

The SDT ordered that the respondent should be struck off the roll.

Between 5 March 2002 and 4 August 2011, the respondent had misappropriated client money to a total value of £266,875 from the estate of Mr BD, deceased, and had thereby breached rules 1(a) and (d) of the Solicitors Practice Rules 1990; rule 22(1) of the Solicitors Accounts Rules 1998; and rules 1.02 and 1.06 of the Solicitors Code of Conduct 2007. In so doing, he had acted dishonestly.

On 3 July 2014, the respondent had caused the firm of Gichard & Co to provide a false document, namely a spreadsheet which purported to be, but was not, an accurate client ledger in relation to the matter of Mr BD, deceased, to an officer of the SRA, and had thereby breached (or failed to achieve) principles 2, 6 and 7 of the SRA Principles 2011 and outcomes 10.6, 10.8 and 10.9 of the SRA Code of Conduct 2011. In so doing he had acted dishonestly.

On 16 July 2013, the respondent had provided false documents, namely bills in relation to the matter of the estate of Mr BD, deceased, which purported to have been, but were not, raised in respect of his costs of that matter, to a solicitor representing an executor and a beneficiary of that estate, and had thereby breached principles 2 and 6. In so doing, he had acted dishonestly.

Between 2007 and 16 September 2014, the respondent had withdrawn the sum of £69,311.45 otherwise than in the circumstances permitted by rule 19(1) of the 1998 rules and rule 22(1) of the SRA Accounts Rules 2011 in breach of those rules.

Between January 2009 and November 2010, the respondent had made a claim for costs for work done in relation to the estate of CR, deceased, in the sum of £37,906.25 which he knew or should have known was excessive, and thereby breached rules 1.02, 1.04, 1.05 and 1.06 of the 2007 code.

Between June 2014 and March 2015, the respondent had made a claim for costs for work done in relation to the estate of DN, deceased, in the sum of £19,200, which he knew or should have known was excessive and had thereby breached principles 2, 4, 5 and 6.

Between June 2007 and 17 March 2015, the respondent had made a claim for costs for work done in relation to the estate of JL-C, deceased, in the sum of £47,758.90, which he knew or should have known was excessive and had thereby breached rules 1.02, 1.04, 1.05, and 1.06 of the 2007 code, and principles 2, 4, 5 and 6.

The level of harm caused to the estates and beneficiaries was significant. The sums involved were vast and although the estate of BD had been repaid by the respondent, the others had not. The reputation of the profession had been significantly damaged by the respondent’s actions. Any misconduct involving client money being misappropriated and the estates of deceased clients being overcharged was a matter of the utmost seriousness. Matters were aggravated by the respondent’s dishonesty.

This was far from an isolated incident. The misconduct had taken place on an ongoing basis over a period of 12 years, during which time estates had been repeatedly and deliberately overcharged, funds had been misappropriated and concealment had followed.

The respondent had had no previous disciplinary matters before the SDT. He had paid some of the money back and had shown genuine remorse and insight into his behaviour.

It had not been suggested that there were exceptional circumstances in the present case and the SDT did not find there to be any. The respondent was ordered to pay costs of £32,763.