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Saturday 25 February 2017

Solicitor used clients' money to pay for piano

Tim Healy

A SOLICITOR has been suspended from practising law indefinitely by the High Court after irregularities were discovered in client accounts – including thousands used to pay for a piano.

Pamela Wall, whose practice was at Carmody Street, Ennis, Co Clare, before it closed in 2008, was found guilty last July by a Law Society Solicitors' Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) of 59 counts of professional misconduct.

Among the findings were that she failed to maintain books sufficient to allow the true position of clients' funds to be determined when the society probed her practice between December 2007 and February 2008.

She also used €5,928 of clients' money to help pay for a piano in September 2000.

She was found guilty on several counts of improperly causing or allowing money in the client account to be transferred or drawn to the office account. This created deficits in the client account.

Loss

While no client was ultimately at a loss as a result of her activities, she improperly used the funds over nearly nine years, the SDT found.

Ms Wall yesterday appealed to the High Court to uphold an SDT recommendation that she should only be suspended rather than struck off.

The society itself had decided to recommend a full strike off, which makes it more difficult to get back into the profession.

High Court President Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns said in view of the fact that Ms Wall was a single mother and sole carer of her elderly parents, he would not impose the "ultimate sanction" of a strike off.

He was satisfied with an undertaking from her that she would never again apply for a practising certificate and the justice of this case could be met with an indefinite suspension.

In an affidavit, Ms Wall accepted her book-keeping was "appalling" but said it was not prejudicial to the public. No client suffered any loss, there were no outstanding deficits in the client account, and no claims had been made against the society's compensation fund, she said.

A report she had prepared by an independent book-keeper highlighted that the errors and breaches of the client account regulations did not become evident until the computerisation of her accounts in 2008, she said.

David Irwin, a solicitor in the society's regulatory department, said in an affidavit that the misconduct was not technical or minor in nature, but was, in the society's view, of a serious and grave nature.

Apart from allowing various deficits in the client account, she was also found guilty of furnishing false and misleading information during the society's investigation of her practice, he said.

Irish Independent

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