A solicitor who personally received more than £4,000 from a client, as well as gifts including a torch and a coat, has been struck off.
In the judgment published this week the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal said Robert Leslie Perry, admitted in 1998, had acted without integrity. He was also ordered to pay £11,000 in costs.
While an assistant solicitor at Staffordshire firm Burrell Jenkins, Perry acted for a client referred to as ‘Mr C’. In 2013, Mr C instructed Perry to help him obtain an injunction against a former partner who he claimed was harassing him. A year before this Perry had represented Mr C in relation to a criminal allegation of harassment.
In judgment, the tribunal found Mr C had paid Perry £4,500 before instruction and that Perry had also accepted gifts from Mr C without either telling him to get independent legal advice or outright refusing to accept the gifts. An allegation that Perry had improperly requested Mr C to pay the money into his personal bank account was found not proven.
According to the tribunal: ‘There was clearly evidence of the payments being made and Mr C had accepted making other gifts to the respondent such as a torch and a coat. The respondent admitted that he did not advise Mr C to obtain independent legal advice. The result had been a string of payments adding up to a significant sum of money.’
Despite the allegation being admitted by Perry the tribunal noted that Mr C was also an unreliable witness. ‘His evidence had clearly been driven by a loathing of the respondent. There had been a serious falling out between the two of them and this had resulted in Mr C displaying an element of vindictiveness in his evidence,’ the judgment found.
Perry also told his employer he had completed £2,000 of work for Mr C outside of his employment when he had not done, and produced a false invoice, the SDT’s judgment states.
In mitigation, Perry said no subsequent difficulties had arisen since the payments in question (between 2013 and 2014) and were unlikely to arise again. He had practised for 16 years without a blemish on his character and that if faced with the same situation again he would not act in the same way.
However, the tribunal found that the ’dishonest attemtps’ to mislead his employer were damaging to the reputation of the profession as was the acceptance of gifts without advising Mr C to get independent legal advice.