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Strike off for solicitor who helped client conceal damages from ‘controlling’ husband

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‘Acted out of character’

An experienced personal injury solicitor who helped a client conceal from her “controlling” husband the full amount of damages she received in settling a claim has been struck off the roll.

Geoffrey Hart, a former director at Midlands outfit Ward & Rider, secured damages of £48,000 after costs for Client A, a family friend of his wife, in 2017. But a Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) heard that during a phone call, the client informed Hart she would be telling her “controlling” husband the claim settled for £30,000 and asked him to prepare a letter setting out the lower amount.

Hart, who qualified in 1998, fired off a letter confirming the claim settled for £40,000 and that costs of £10,000 would be deducted from the final amount. He prepared two further “misleading” letters confirming that payments had been made. He resigned from the firm during the disciplinary process.

In non-agreed mitigation, Hart said he had “acted out of character” and become “very emotional” after discovering that Client A, like his wife, had suffered a stillbirth.

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A clinical psychologist report confirmed Hart made a mistake at work whilst experiencing “psychological difficulties” and some “associated impairment in cognitive processing (judgment and reasoning)”.

Hart made no attempt to conceal the letters and upon realising the seriousness of the matter, he pressed the firm to contact Client A to recall the letter, which they successfully did. Client A confirmed that the letter had not been shown to her husband or anyone.

The tribunal also heard how Hart sent an email to his wife, a solicitor, attaching a letter addressed to Client B. The letter contained personal information about Client B including her name and address, the fact they had suffered a personal injury, and that she intended to bring a claim against a named company. His purpose for disclosing the letter was to provide his wife with a precedent document for her own legal practice.

Hart was struck off the roll and ordered to pay £9,000 costs by way of an agreed outcome.

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27 Comments

Dark Destroyer

Seems like a jolly good fellow to me. Just wondering who grasses him up?

Ex Barrister

The husband probably when he looked at the bank statement.

Anon

Pathetic excuses for dishonesty seem the order of the day. Glad the SRA gives such nonsense bleatings no weight.

Confused

Being struck off for the first matter seems a bit extreme considering that he took action to mitigate his actions and came clean about it. Don’t get me wrong, integrity is important, but it sounds like he was trying to act in the best interests of his client in the first matter.

On the second matter, he shouldn’t have sent that letter to his wife. Was that the reason he was ultimately struck off? Would be useful for the article to actually specify on what grounds he was struck off.

Archibald Pomp O'City

“Integrity is important”.

Precisely.

“but it sounds like he was trying to act in the best interests of his client”.

This is an acceptable excuse for fraud?

Convicted

What’s with all this rubbish.

When are you going to run a story about Lord Harley’s conviction?

Alan's mum

What sentence was given to Blacker? I wouldn’t want to share a cell with the man.

Lord

No sentence yet, he was found guilty of one charge by a majority verdict but, for the second charge, the prosecution will now be considering a re-trial

Lord Harely

Er, no. The jury was discharged as they failed to reach a verdict.

Tom

City spitting at girlfriend, convicted of assault, avoids being referred to SRA disciplinary hearing & receives a rebuke & pays £1000 (Law Soc Gazette 8/3/18)
Compassionate lawyer makes error of judgement (which he rectifies) trying to assist a victim of domestic violence & is struck off
Says it all really

Tom

Sorry meant city solicitor above

Anon

Well yes it does. One case concerns criminal behaviour unrelated to his occupation as a solicitor. The other concerns dishonest criminal behaviour conducted in the course of his occupation as a solicitor.

As a solicitor you are not permitted to make a deliberate false statement in a letter you send to a party intended to deceive that party and cause them a financial loss. He lied in his letter when he said that the damages paid were only £30,000 and he used his status as a solicitor to make the attempted deception appear more convincing.

The client could if she wished have lied to her husband herself without involving the solicitor. The whole point in asking the solicitor to lie in an official letter was to make the lie more convincing and to use his status as a solicitor to support the lie. You just can’t do that as a solicitor.

Archibald Pomp O'City

Don’t waste your breath trying to be reasonable. The Toms of this world don’t recognise reason.

Ciaran Goggins

More subconscious phallocentric oppression of wimmin.

Mary Jones

We have a regulator who has scant regard to being consistent in its decision making process. It is time for an open debate on dishonesty and integrity and what the outcome should. The SRA’s stated poisition is that this should always lead to a strike off. The SRA however is able to fudge the issue when it sees fit and not allege dishonesty when there is evidence to support such an allegation. See for example the case of Charles Smith. Does the SRA fudge the issue when it suits to avoid harsh outcomes? They say it should always lead to a strike of but what about the 2017 case of Daniel Smith, where it was prepared to reach an agreement which did not lead to him being struck off. I have no issues with this decision but wasn’t Mr Smith’s behaviour much worse than the behaviour in this case. In this case the letter was created in circumstances to assist his client- very different to creating it to cover his own shortcomings. He immediately recognised it was wrong and took steps to resolve the situation, thus showing real insight and a commitment to the principles. The disclosure of confidental information to his wife who is also a solicitor and for a particular purpose whilst not acceptable was unlikely to cause the client’s information to be compromised. How many of us have received unredacted precedences from colleague’s. Then on top of this we have his mitigation. I wonder what members of the public would make of this punishment. My own view is that striking him off was inappropriate. It is time for a grown up debate on the issue, for the SRA to behave with consistancy and for the SDT to properly hold the SRA to account rather than rubber stamping agreed outcomes that are presented to it. Ask the public for their views. I cannot see that the decision in this case will impact positively on public protection.

Frozen II

There was evidence of dishonesty. He was acting dishonestly. He got struck off. Who cares about mitigation; the SRA have been very consistent in this regard.

(Notice how I have gone into a new paragraph) The SRA are not judge jury and executioner. If they want to allege something they need to have the evidential weight behind it, as is consistent with normal litigation.

your statement is a disappointing one. Honesty and integrity are deeply sacrosanct – we are held in a higher stead and must act accordingly.

Mary Jones

Very consistent or just a little bit- like a little bit pregnant. How is this outcome consistent with Charlie Smith and Daniel Smith? And how is Charlie Smith’s outcome consistent with that of Terence Sopel? How? Consistancy….Not happening- shame.

Frozen II

Okay, I will bite. If you actually ready the facts of Charlie Smith, we’re talking about 5 client to office transfers for residual balances; lack of integrity yes but not beyond reasonable doubt dishonest.

David Smith – if you read the facts, its clear dishonesty, aided by his admissions to the fact. He was rightly struck off; dishonesty aggravated the offence of his lack of integrity.

I cannot see the case of Sopel, but I imagine its pretty clear on the facts why the decision was made. The decisions in both cases of Smith are pretty clear cut and a comparison of them indicates one clearly being dishonest, the other if anything just being plain negligent and stupid.

Am I missing something? Otherwise, I am genuinely concerned that you don’t see the difference.

Archibald Pomp O'City

“What about this really serious case that was handled leniently – therefore this should have been lenient too”.
Never mind the unredacted disclosure to the wife – that happens lots of times and no harm would probably come of it.

Go to hell with your whataboutery. Making feeble excuses for fraudsters.

It's A Scam

He got struck on 14 October, 2019, which is just one day before an Associate Cilex member left her job as the head of Ward and Rider’s Wills and Probate department. Her name is now apparently linked with Henry Stowe Solicitors…

https://www.sra.org.uk/consumers/scam-alerts/2019/nov/henry-stowe-is-not-a-genuine-firm-of-solicitors/

https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/11309015

Henry Stowe (fake Solicitors) are still posting several thousand leaflets through letterboxes in the Leamington Spa area, still bearing the SRA logo and an SRA number they are not entitled to use, despite the SRA’s Scam Alert.

If you call Henry Stowe to challenge their bona fides, be prepared to be met with a barrage of abuse…

https://www.henrystowe.co.uk/

IndyRef 2020 #Hooray #VoteYes2020

Jesus was this really worth a strike off? So you can attempt to murder people and not get struck off but this was too much?

Archibald Pomp O'City

More whataboutery. Your argumentation is illiterate.

IndyRef 2020 #Hooray #VoteYes2020

Whatever I just want IndyRef tbh

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