Saturday 22 October 2016

Solicitor who sold his practice to jailed lawyer Thomas Byrne is found guilty of misconduct

Tim Healy

Published 15/06/2015 | 17:02

Scales (stock)
Scales (stock)

A SOLICITOR who had an unblemished 40-year career until he agreed to sell his practice to jailed lawyer Thomas Byrne is never to seek work in the profession again after being found guilty of misconduct.

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Donal Corrigan, formerly practising at St Agnes Road, Crumlin, Dublin, agreed in 2005 to sell his practice to Byrne who later sent Mr Corrigan a cheque for the purchase which bounced, the High Court heard today.

By that stage, Byrne's own practice had been shut down by the Law Society after an investigation into his activities began in 2007. In 2013, Byrne was sentenced to 16 years imprisonment, four suspended, for stealing €52m from banks and defrauding clients out of their houses and money.

Mr Corrigan had taken out a mortgage on the strength of the proposed sale and later KBC bank took over his premises to repay the loan, John Bourke, solicitor for Mr Corrigan told the court.

Mr Bourke was asking High Court president Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns not to strike Mr Corrigan off the roll of solicitors as he was now 67, no longer practising and would not seek to practice in the future. He sought a permanent deferral of the strike-off application.

Mr Corrigan had led an unblemished career, most of it as a sole practitioner since 1979, until he agreed to sell to Byrne which was around the same time Mr Corrigan's wife suffered a serious health problem, Mr Bourke said. He is now her full-time carer.

The Law Society had "reluctantly" recommended his striking off after a Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal found him guilty of misconduct, Paul Anthony McDermott BL, for the society, said.

The findings related to inadequate professional service to clients, failure to refund monies due to clients and failure to comply with undertakings to KBC bank.

While there were significant mitigating factors, there were an "enormous" number of complaints, counsel said.

Mr Bourke, appealing to the judge to permanently defer the strike-off application, said a number of other solicitors from the local Dublin 12 area were in court to give moral support  to a good colleague who over the last 20 to 40 years "who did not let them down".

All his problems started in 2005 when his wife fell ill and he agreed to sell his practice to Byrne. However, he was remiss in accepting a cheque from Byrne rather than a bank draft, Mr Bourke said.

The misconduct matters against him could have been resolved within months had he not allowed all the problems to build up following what happened with Byrne. Had someone taken over his firm, all these problems "would have gone away".

Mr Corrigan asked the court to adjourn the strike off application generally "and let him have his dignity and fulfil his life as somebody who did some good service to the public".

Mr Justice Kearns said this was not a case, unlike others, where there was a strong recommendation from the Law Society for a strike off. 

While in no way condoning the conduct, having heard Mr Bourke's submissions, given Mr Corrigan's age and the fact that so many of his colleagues were present in court to support him, he would accede to the application to adjourn the matter generally. That was on the basis he never practises in the future.

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