Solicitor who took €173,000 from estate struck off
A solicitor has been struck off over findings of professional misconduct, including taking some €173,543 from a deceased woman's estate when not entitled to do so and over forgery of authorisations for other fees.
The president of the High Court Mr Justice Peter Kelly said given the level of "miscreancy" involved, Imelda Leahy was "not a fit and proper person to be a solicitor". He was very concerned Ms Leahy provided the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) with forged authorisations and forged opinion of a barrister purportedly authorising some of the disputed payments to her, he said. He directed documents in the case should be provided to the Garda bureau of fraud investigation for its consideration.
In light of such misbehaviour, a strike-off order was the only means of ensuring trust in the solicitor's profession can be maintained, he said.
Had a "more robust" approach been taken when earlier findings of misconduct were made by the SDT against Ms Leahy in 2011, she might not have been able to carry out the later activities, he added.
Nessa Bird BL, for the Law Society, sought the strike-off orders arising from findings last February of the SDT concerning Ms Leahy, formerly practising as Imelda Leahy & Company Solicitors, Bagenalstown, Co Carlow.
A solicitor on behalf of Ms Leahy argued no "specific" findings of dishonesty were made against her and she had not personally benefited from the matters alleged.
Ms Leahy had said deductions of €130,000 from the deceased woman's estate were a bona fide "mistake", he said.
The SDT had found that Ms Leahy had, between September 2013 and October 2014, transferred costs totalling some €130,000 on 25 separate occasions from the estate of a deceased woman.
While Ms Leahy exhibited an opinion from a senior counsel which purportedly authorised her to take those fees, that senior counsel told the SDT he never provided any such opinion.