A solicitor has been struck off after taking client money and forging documents. The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) struck Andrew John Davies, who did not engage with the tribunal proceedings, from the roll of solicitors and ordered him to pay £65,867.40 in costs after showing complete disregard to integrity, probity and trustworthiness.
The tribunal found the respondent; faked bank statements to show he had paid off liabilities, created false user IDs on his firm’s systems to pay clients’ mortgage monies to his own bank account, provided false bank statements claiming to show mortgages had been redeemed, forged building regulation certificates, and used client funds to make payments to beneficiaries under his late law firm partner’s will. The tribunal also heard the respondent created a fake QC’s opinion on a stamp duty land tax avoidance scheme which, as a result, promoted that scheme to a tax consultancy, and fabricated an emails claiming he had paid for the barrister’s services.
The respondents activities were stopped when Royal Bank of Scotland reported that the firm’s accounts had been frozen due to suspicious activity with the respondents personal bank account. A total cash shortage of £833,450.04 was claimed, and there was no evidence that this shortage had been replaced. A number of claims have been made against the compensation fund. The tribunal concluded that the motivation for his conduct was for personal and financial gain, and that the respondent made considerable efforts to disguise what he was doing and cover his tracks.
The tribunal held that it was evident that the respondent had not acted with integrity. He had helped himself to client monies and had lied to the bank and FIO. He had not protected client money and assets nor had he acted in the best interests of each client. The tribunal held that the public would conclude that the solicitor had not behaved in a way that maintained the trust the public placed in that solicitor and in the provision of legal services.
The tribunal considered that the respondent’s misconduct would have continued and escalated further had he not been stopped.
This case highlights the requirement to act with integrity and honesty in all transactions, communications and dealings within a legal practice. The potential for known and unknown harm can be significant.