Friday 20 September 2019

Suspended solicitor's accounts frozen as shortfall nears €1m

Suspended: Solicitor Declan O’Callaghan at the Four Courts. Photo: Collins Courts
Suspended: Solicitor Declan O’Callaghan at the Four Courts. Photo: Collins Courts

Tim Healy

A suspended solicitor has consented to High Court orders freezing his accounts below €1.062m, plus orders effectively aimed at winding up his former practice.

The order was made after the High Court was told the Law Society was very concerned the deficit on the practice account may be almost €1m and is "increasing and increasing".

Declan O'Callaghan will be entitled to vouched monthly living expenses of €11,600, president of the High Court Mr Justice Peter Kelly directed.

The sum was agreed between the solicitor and the Law Society and includes mortgage repayments.

The consent orders also provide Mr O'Callaghan will remain suspended from practice.

The orders also provide for steps to sell three properties - his family home in Ballaghderreen, a townhouse in Portugal and a property at Arran Quay, Dublin - with the proceeds going towards clearing the deficit on the account of the Kilraine O'Callaghan practice at Pound Street, Ballaghderreen in Co Roscommon.

A sum of €107,816 is also to be paid out today to a law firm related to certain litigation and the orders provide for handover tomorrow of files of the practice to the Law Society.

In making the orders, Mr Justice Kelly noted the Law Society alleges dishonesty against Mr O'Callaghan while he has consistently denied any dishonesty.

That issue will be adjudicated on in due course by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) and was not before the court, he said.

It was "important" the court made clear Mr O'Callaghan had asserted at all times he had conducted himself honestly, had at all times sought to act in the best interests of the clients of his firm and intended to personally make good any shortfalls which may be found in the practice and to ensure no client of the practice was at a loss.

It was also important to say the Law Society was not alleging any dishonesty against Mr O'Callaghan's daughters Aoife and Eimear O'Callaghan, both solicitors, who were made partners in the practice last month for the purposes of ensuring it remained insured, the judge said.

That €1m sum deficit excluded a refund by Mr O'Callaghan earlier this year of €344,000 in alleged "exorbitant" fees and costs taken from the estate of a bereaved child, plus his refund of some €80,000 to a widowed mother of three in alleged excessive fees, said the Society.

The Law Society is very concerned some of the refunded monies appear to have come from the accounts of other clients, the court was also told.

Irish Independent

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