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Junior solicitor removed from profession after backdating legal aid paperwork

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He was just a few months qualified at the time

A junior solicitor has been struck off for backdating a client’s signature on some legal aid paperwork.

Charles David Myers was just a few months qualified when he committed the forgery. He then tried to “destroy” the application ahead of an audit, but finally ‘fessed up to superiors.

Myers said that he had been “under an untenable level of pressure”, but the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) found that “these were serious acts of dishonesty” and banned him from the profession.

Myers started working as a paralegal for Minton Morrill Solicitors in February 2014. The Leeds firm eventually awarded him a training contract, and he qualified in August 2017.

But it wasn’t a happy time for Myers, who later told the tribunal in non-agreed mitigation that “he was placed under an untenable level of pressure by the firm, undertaking approximately half of his training contract whilst…his supervisor… was on maternity leave”. He also claimed to be “effectively the senior inquest lawyer at the firm” during this period, “with no day-to-day supervision available, and was left to supervise another (more junior) trainee and to train and supervise a paralegal in the department”.

Against this backdrop, in November 2016, Myers met two clients who wanted to be represented at an inquest. Minton Morrill agreed to take the case on legal aid. Myers failed to get the necessary signatures at the meeting, but the legal aid certificate was granted anyway.

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The inquest took place in November 2017. At some point beforehand, Myers realised his mistake: “the client’s declaration and the Form CW1 were not signed”. He got the clients to sign the documents at the inquest, but put fake 2016 dates alongside the signatures.

But Myers fatally messed up the backdating. The legal aid application was dated 22 December 2016, whereas the false date was 23 December 2016.

He realised his mistake when preparing for a Legal Aid Agency audit in early 2018. With the documents dated after the application date, an audit would likely see the legal aid cert declared invalid and the money clawed back.

Myers then tried to change the fake date to something earlier, but his attempted forgery “rendered the form unusable as his attempted amendment was obvious”. He promptly disposed of the evidence, putting the paperwork “in the shredding bag on the landing outside his office”. Myers eventually came clean to one of the partners.

Before the SDT, Myers admitted the various allegations and that he had been dishonest. In mitigation, he told the tribunal that his actions “were borne out of an extended period of unsustainable levels of responsibility, pressure and stress, commencing in late 2016”.

But the panel found that “these were serious acts of dishonesty committed over an extended period which were to the detriment of the firm. The case plainly does not fall within the small residual category where striking off would be a disproportionate sentence”.

The judgment also records that Minton Morrill ultimately handed the money — £4,423.60 — back to the Legal Aid Agency. The firm has been approached for comment.

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38 Comments

LC 1

That’s a shame.

But nobody wants to look into the sh** management at the firm?

Riding your whole career over £4000 is ridiculous though.

(91)(6)

Jane Alison

I was told in order to get evidence from the criminal defence service (CPS ) in a criminal matter the client had to give concent to the firm.of solicitors they were instructing?
But have recently become aware that the CPS work with other solicitors at oth er firms who have worked as defence solicitors and in a matter recently with out clients consent passed information on to each other just because they know each other ….without clients consent form being signed ..a
Legal cheek I think if this was goes on specially in serious cases …how does the client get a fair hearing if this goes on

Could a case be thrown out of court or defense solictors be struck off by law society ??

(1)(13)

Norman Church

In English please Jane.

(19)(0)

Anonymous

I’ve seen people do this at a fairly well-known Legal Aid firm. The lawyers and paralegals aren’t much better off than the people they’re representing, so it’s hardly surprising they cut corners for a few more crumbs.

(42)(4)

Anonymous

Sounds awfully like he was one of these types who might have openly boasted about somehow joining a big U.S.-owned big commercial firm in the City here, 5-7 years ago!

(0)(20)

Susan

I’ve seen this happen in solicitors I’ve worked in.

(6)(0)

Susan

I’ve seen this happen in solicitors I’ve worked in. The legal aid form being backdated.

(3)(1)

Someone

Thanks Susan, very cool.

(29)(4)

Anon

Wow, great story. Have you optioned the film rights yet?

(8)(2)

Catlady

I worked in Legal aid and unfortunately the firms that run the contracts are a disaster. Poor supervision, no controls over caseload volumes and ridiculous pressure. I can totally see how this could happen. They shouldn’t have been struck off, mismanagement at the firm should be looked into

(50)(1)

Po

As a trainee in a legal aid firm I was instructed to do this by my supervising solicitors in the first few weeks working there, and was told that it was standard practice to back-date. Having now qualified (elsewhere) I hope those documents never come back to haunt me.

(30)(1)

Anonymous

Well, the correct thing to do is self-report.

(4)(17)

Blah

That worked out well for the guy in this story…

(3)(0)

Po

I have reported in very generic forms already. I really can’t remember any details of the cases I worked on or the dates, so it’s as good as covered up now.

(8)(1)

Anonymous

I could easily name someone who does this! Amongst other dodgy dealings…

(2)(0)

Anomanous

This solicitor should not of been struck off but his firms mis management should of been looked into.

I’ve no dought there are other firms were this goes on ..
At the end of the day solicitors can charge from around£200 to maybe £250.an hour to ordinary people who get minimin wage of £8.00 an hour ..but carnt get legal.aid …
Weres the fair justice in this ….
Why are solicitors paid so much and able to charge this amount to ordinary people on low income

(3)(13)

Good God

Anomanous

Please tell me you are not a budding solicitor. Basic spelling and grammar escapes you.

(10)(3)

Anon

Cos they can spell

(5)(1)

Anomanous

My curse on thee and the male of thy line for the disrespect

(3)(1)

Lee cee

The answer is simple, to name a few, you are paying a highly skilled person for a service that has cost them, many years of study and high debt to achieve. Not withstanding, the months and – often times – years of voluntary work they likely did to gain work experience. On arrange it takes 7 years to qualify (degree, LPC, training contract) and an additional three years to be of any good standing within the field once you have.

Most people don’t have the discipline and commitment to go through all that.

The long applications processes alone cannot be compare to a lay persons experience.

Lawyer’s deal with complicated staff that the clients, often times, choose not to learn themselves. Therefore, what lawyer or potential lawyer in there right mind would go through all that for low pay? – would not happen…

(7)(3)

Anonymous

“You knew FULL WELL what you are getting yourself into” and all that…

(0)(1)

Anonymous

It’s clear you have no idea how Legal Aid works, so don’t spread misinformation. The overwhelming majority of lawyers in Legal Aid are not making £200 per hour. I worked in a massive Legal Aid firm in which the bulk of the work was done by paralegals on less than £10 per hour.

And even if they were charging £200 per hour, that’s not £200 in the practitioner’s pocket. Most of that would go into the firm’s coffer.

(8)(0)

Anonymous

Legal aid is abused by courts too. I know someone who is in family court and their child is being kept ward of court so the other parent, who is abusive, violent and can only have supervised contact, can keep their legal aid! The court ruled that the child was not abducted so that parent should never have gotten it in the first place! And the protective parent get 0 help to protect their child! #nocontactforabusers #thecourtsaid

(7)(1)

Elizabeth bennett

Phone a newspaper about this.. happens all too often and needs attention by any means

(6)(2)

Anonymous

Scapegoated.

(1)(0)

Lord Sado

Struck off for that is absolutely shocking… You have partners who act in conflict or get embroiled in several scandals but don’t get struck off because those do not count strictly as acting ‘dishonestly’ and then you have this case where a nq gets struck off and basically ruin his career for legal aid backdating… That’s preposterous! Also as many people have already commented I am sure the firm’s management has a lot to do with it… I would accept this if it was repetitive dishonesty… Anyways I’m not qualified to hear such cases so I might as well be completely wrong or there might be something more to the story that legal cheek’s brilliant reporting team is missing…

(19)(1)

zan

Don’t back date no matter what. It just isn’t worth it because it can easily come back to bite. Just move.

Scapegoated. F’d over.

(8)(0)

Anon

The bigger disgrace here is that Legal Aid is dished out for inquests. There is no way taxpayers should work hard to fund indulgent representation at this sort of process.

(3)(5)

Simon Manton

this is a heartbreaking case – young, inexperienced man clearly working under enormous pressure and probably on a crap salary too. Professional career in ruins all for a stupid error of judgment. There but for the grace of god etc..

I wonder if the result would have been different if he’d been working at a Magic Circle firm and been represented by a QC? Not for a moment suggesting that the SDT have double standards.

(9)(0)

Anon

I wonder if the result would have been different if he had been a barrister and found guilty of the equivalent regulatory breach?

(5)(0)

Another Anon

I truly hope no family member or loved one of yours dies whilst in state detention, if they did I very much doubt you would describe representing the interests of the bereaved as “indulgent”.

(8)(1)

Anonymous

Absolutely not at all, because 85/90-plus percent of this country’s population don’t go around spitting at police officers’ faces, or go around carrying machetes ‘for self-protection’… or try to bite a police officer (allegedly!)

(1)(1)

Marie Quinn

I am truly shocked by some of these comments. As a former legal aid solicitor, I have never and would not tolerate anyone backdating forms, it is fraud! If you mess up, you put your hands up and deal with the situation and consequences. For a legal aid firm every penny counts BUT not at the expense of producing fraudulent documents. Just because a few people have really silly moments, it should not reflect on the whole profession where standards are high and we still act with integrity.

(4)(5)

Anonymous

They were too busy daydreaming about being a top commercial solicitor/attorney working between New York and London … the Universities just don’t teach about the basics any more!

(1)(0)

Anonymous

There are two sides to every story and people should be commenting that he should not have been struck off or scapegoated without knowing the full facts

(0)(2)

Lindsay

I know of very many solicitors who are corrupt or are involved in criminality cover ups. Interesting to hear that Minton Morrill was involved in this particular case, doesn’t surprise me. I have experience to prove that solicitors work hand in glove with Police to cover up crimes of fraud against the elderly propped up by charities for the elderly. Your eyes would water given the amount of evidence I have…..

(3)(1)

Zan

It seems he forgot to take a step back and look at the situation objectively. There’s no way the firm would help him to sort it out and he should have known he was just disposable. It’s a hard lesson in not forgetting the basics. It is dishonest but I do feel sorry for him if this was common practice there or he was too scared to hold his hands up through fear of losing his job. He ended up losing his career and reputation. He should have known that owning up to a mistake is neither here nor there even if his job was at stake, so why put himself at risk like that?

(1)(0)

Micro

why not just say NO. Ethics! Fraud! Honesty in the profession. If you are sacked, easy. Just state you are looking for a job where you are not required to backdate documents. There is more respect in that than doing the wrong thing.

(0)(3)

Comments are closed.

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