Disgraced solicitors struck off and fined £57k for swindling cash from client

Two disgraced solicitors have been struck off and jointly fined around £57,000 after thousands of pounds were misappropriated from a client’s account.

Tuesday, 18th June 2019, 10:11 am

James O’Connor of Barrington Lewis Law Ltd in Up Holland and Giles Guy Robertson have been told they will never again work as solicitors after a slew of allegations against the pair were proved by a disciplinary tribunal.

Other news: Getting away with it: Wigan criminals escape prosecution for serious offencesThe panel found that O’Connor, who was director of the Pimbo company for two decades, had failed to notice more than £140,000 being misappropriated by Robertson, a fellow solicitor.

He told the tribunal that he “didn’t really care” where the £600 monthly payment to the company was coming from as long as he got the money.

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This was one of six allegations against O'Connor which were found proved.

Robertson, who was first accepted onto the solicitors’ roll in 2013 and worked for the company’s Madison Legal branch in Stockport, was found to have moved the funds over to Barrington Lewis Law over a period of nine months.

The tribunal discovered that the company who fell victim to Robertson’s dishonesty, was a debt management company providing debt advice and administering debt settlement.

Between September 2015 and March 2016, Robertson transferred sums totalling £140,731.97 from the Madison Legal account to the office account to another account.

Although he tried to deny these allegations, saying that it would have been “impossible” for him to have made some of the transfers as he was out of the office or in meetings, the tribunal found that he was the sole signatory and that all of the transactions had been made using his online banking membership number.

During the hearing, O’Connor was slammed by members of the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal, who said that his supervision of the misappropriated funds was “wholly lacking”.

A report published following the hearing, said: “The first respondent (O’Connor) failed to detect and prevent the misappropriation due to his failure to properly monitor the accounts of the firm.

“The firm had a number of branch offices, however the first respondent exercised no control over those offices or the staff working there.

“As long as he received payment from those offices, said to be a contribution towards the insurance costs, the first respondent left those offices to their own devices.”

The tribunal found that, on top of this, O’Connor misled the Solicitors Regulatory Authority by declaring that the firm did not hold any client money, when he knew that they did.

He also failed to cause the firm to submit accountants’ reports between 2010 and 2016, when the company was dissolved.

Another proved allegation stated that in September 2015, O’Connor submitted a personal indemnity insurance form which stated that the firm undertook 100 per cent personal injury work.

Under questioning, Robertson explained that the Madison Legal branch had also been conducting PPI, package banking account matters, consumer credit claims, small claims and debt management.

Both O’Connor and Robertson were jointly fined just under £57,000 and Robertson has been ordered to pay a further £616 in costs.

He did not attend and was not represented.