Friday 15 December 2017

High Court strikes off solicitor over €1.18m cash shortfall

Tim Healy

A SOLICITOR who had a deficit of €1.18m in client funds and who operated a secret bank account has been struck off by the High Court.

The orders were made against Michael Small, who has an office at Carrick House, Newenham Street, Limerick.

He was also ordered yesterday to pay restitution to the solicitors' compensation fund.

Yesterday, Mr Justice Iarfhlaith O Neill, on foot of an application on behalf of the Law Society, made the orders against Mr Small, who was enrolled as a solicitor in 2003. Mr Small had opposed the application.

Solicitor Mary Fenelon, for the Law Society, said last April the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal recommended that Mr Small be struck off after an investigation revealed he allowed a deficit of client funds of €1.181m to accrue.

Mr Small also operated a secret bank account where funds of around €1.2m were lodged; used client monies to discharge the mortgage debts of clients who defaulted on mortgages; paid monies to third parties and withdrew money for his own use; and failed to maintain proper records.

Mr Small also allowed claims to arise on the solicitors' compensation fund of €1.123m, with more than €428,000 already paid out.

Ms Fenelon said that what Mr Small had done was "very serious" and there was "no option" other than to seek an order striking him off.

Solicitor Cahir O'Higgins, for Mr Small, asked the court not to strike off his client. He asked the court to consider mitigating circumstances, including the effects of what had occurred regarding both Mr Small's personal life and his health.

While it was accepted it was difficult to argue against Mr Small being struck off, Mr O'Higgins said he came under the influence of mortgage brokers, and had not benefited personally from what had occurred.

He said that his client allowed his business and personal finances to become interwoven and chaotic and he did not conduct his affairs in a sensible way.

Mr Small, he added, had fully co-operated with the Law Society.


Mr Justice O Neill said that, after considering all the matters before him, he was fully satisfied to make the orders striking off Mr Small.

Meanwhile, another solicitor is strongly contesting claims he misled a client about how much he would receive as a result of an action he took over sexual abuse he suffered as a child in a religious institution, the High Court heard yesterday.

Denis McMahon -- a partner in McMahon O'Brien solicitors with offices at Henry Street, Limerick, and Pembroke Road, Dublin -- denies allegations that he failed to lodge cheques for €35,000 he received for the case and that he told the victim he would get just €5,000.

Yesterday, Mr McMahon was given permission by the High Court to challenge misconduct proceedings brought against him by the Law Society.

The case will be back before the courts later this month.

Irish Independent

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