A FORMER judge pleaded from behind bars not to have her name struck off the solicitors' register but instead be allowed to "consent" to its removal.
Heather Perrin, a former District Court judge and solicitor, who is currently serving a prison sentence in An Dochas, was yesterday found guilty by the Solicitors' Disciplinary Tribunal of 15 counts of professional misconduct.
Through her solicitor, Perrin admitted 14 of the counts relating to failure to keep proper accounts at her practice.
However, she contested the allegation of continuing to provide legal services after ceasing practice and without a practicing certificate.
Solicitor Sean Sexton visited Perrin in prison ahead of the hearing and told the tribunal she had "no intention whatsoever" of ever seeking to renew her practice cert. He said she would "consent" to her name being removed from the roll of solicitors as opposed to it "being a formal strike-off".
However, tribunal chair Edward McEllin found that Perrin had "technically" been providing legal services and that this amounted to misconduct, as did the 14 counts relating to her accounting failures.
As a sanction, the tribunal will now recommend to the High Court that her name be struck off the solicitors' register and that €5,000 should be contributed towards legal costs.
The numerous accounting failures were flagged by a purchaser as Perrin tried to sell the practice after she had been appointed as a District Court judge in 2009.
She became the first judge in the history of the State to be convicted of a serious crime, when she was found guilty last year of deceiving a family friend into leaving almost half of his €1m estate to her children.
She resigned from the bench in the wake of the conviction and was sentenced to two-and-a-half years at An Dochas women's prison for deception.
Earlier this year, she received a further two-year prison term for a "dishonest transaction" involving a client when she served as a solicitor.
Barrister Paul Anthony McDermott, on behalf of the Law Society, said there was "systemic and systematic failure to keep proper books of account".
Instead, he told the hearing that at the end of each year the solicitor would decide what was needed to run the office and a "round sum" was removed from clients' accounts.
Her actions were "reckless" and it was clear she did not understand that the money in clients' accounts did not belong to her.
Sean Sexton, solicitor for Perrin, said his client had "incorrectly" imposed a level of trust in her book-keepers and argued that to strike her off would be excessive.
Seamus McGrath, senior investigating account with the Law Society, said he informed Perrin she should not be dealing with outstanding matters.
At that point, Mr Sexton said, his client engaged another solicitor to take care of it.
Mr McDermott said it had not been suggested that Perrin was continuing to look for clients.
But she had decided to deal with the matters, rather "than pay another solicitor".