A sole practitioner who misled two clients for months about £180,000 in missing funds has been struck off the roll.
Sandra Campbell, who practised from offices in Harrow and Mayfair, repeatedly insisted that she had the funds to repay the out-of-pocket clients, when in fact there was only £5.16 in the client account.
Her misappropriation of funds is likely to have a significant impact on the wider profession, with one claim settled and one claim pending to recover the money from the compensation fund. The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal found Campbell had tried to buy time to deflect her culpability for the shortfall.
‘The sums involved were very significant, amounting to a combined total of over £180,000,’ said the tribunal ruling. ‘The distress and inconvenience caused was very substantial. [Her] clients had been cynically misled.’
The tribunal heard that Campbell, who was absent from last month’s hearing and did not engage with the disciplinary process, acted in the sale of a property where £540,000 was paid into the firm’s client account in August last year. The total fees and disbursements were supposed to be £6,736, but following eight payments there was still a shortfall of £164,264. She tried to explain that the bank had capped the transfers she was permitted to make because she was abroad, but the missing money has ultimately never been paid.
Campbell sent a number of emails to the client saying that payment would be confirmed within days, and this was inferred by the tribunal to be a ‘ruse intended to buy time’.
In another matter, a personal injury matter was settled by the firm for an award of £17,000 in 2020. Campbell & Co Solicitors was supposed to deduct 25% from this amount but nothing was ever paid to the client, despite repeated assurances.
Campbell also misled the SRA about her ability to repay the funds and told the court, in response to a bankruptcy petition, that she would arrange to transfer all the missing money.
Campbell, admitted in 1998, was struck off and ordered to pay £25,114 in costs.