A LEGAL watchdog is to recommend to the High Court that former Judge Heather Perrin’s name be struck off the solicitors register for misconduct.
Heather Perrin, a former District Court judge and solicitor, was found guilty of 15 counts of professional misconduct by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal.
Ms Perrin admitted 14 of the counts relating to failure to keep proper accounts at her solicitors practice. She contested the allegation she had continued to provide legal services after ceasing practice and without the necessary practicing cert.
Tribunal chair Edward McEllin found Ms Perrin had “technically” been providing legal services and it amounted to misconduct.
The tribunal will now recommended as a sanction to the High Court that Ms Perrin is not a fit person to be a member of the solicitors profession and her name be struck off the register.
Barrister Paul Anthony McDermott, on behalf of the Law Society, said there was “systemic and systematic failure to keep proper books of account”. He told the hearing that at the end of the year the solicitor would decide what was needed to run the office and the money was removed from clients accounts.
He stated the solicitors accounting regulations were in place to ensure that “money is safe, guarded, secured and isn’t at risk”.
The accounting issues came to light after Ms Perrin moved to sell her practice.
Sean Sexton, solicitor for Ms Perrin, said his client was already in An Dochas women’s prison serving a sentence and had paid a “heavy price”.
He pointed out she had admitted wrong doing and failings at an early stage.
He said she had “incorrectly” imposed a level of trust in her bookkeepers, and argued that to strike her off would be excessive.
“I believe no client of her practice is at a financial loss,” he added.
In relation to the allegation of providing legal services without a practicing cert, Mr Sexton argued that Ms Perrin had been carrying out “administrative” work rather than legal work after handing over her practicing cert. “All she was doing was tidying up so to speak,” he said.
He believed the use of the expression continuing to “provide legal services” could be misconstrued.
Seamus McGrath, senior investigating account with the Law Society, said he had informed Ms Perrin she should not be dealing with outstanding matters and another solicitor should deal with them.
Mr Sexton said his client had then engaged another solicitor, her nephew, to take care of the matters.
Ms Perrin became the first judge in the history of the State to be convicted of a serious crime when she was last year found guilty of deceiving an old family friend into leaving almost half of his €1m estate to her children. She 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.