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Ban for legal executive who used own money to cover error

SRA: Section 43 orders

A chartered legal executive who covered up a mistake by paying a client her own money to increase her settlement has been banned from working for solicitors’ firms.

Elaine Marshall is one of several non-solicitors in recent days who have been made subject to an order under section 43 of the Solicitors Act 1974, meaning they cannot work for a firm regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) without its permission.

Ms Marshall was employed by west midlands firm Waldrons from April 2017 until 6 March 2018, when she was dismissed, with immediate effect, for gross misconduct.

An SRA notice explained: “In order to cover up a mistake on a personal injury matter, Ms Marshall created a court claim form and a court order and misled her client and her colleagues as to the true nature of the settlement.

“Ms Marshall paid £1,200 from her own funds to increase the settlement to her client. When her employers became suspicious, she admitted to forging the documents. She admitted acting dishonestly.”

Kathryn Louise Thomas, who was a paralegal in the debt recovery department of Lovetts in Guildford for three years to September 2018 – when she resigned – was also found not to have progressed a client’s matter and acted dishonestly in trying to cover it up.

The SRA said: “When she was questioned about it, she created letters and backdated them to pretend the matter had been progressed; she lied to her client and her employers and deleted correspondence on the client’s file in breach of her employer’s procedures.”

Meanwhile, Mohammed Khan a paralegal at Blackburn firm Harwood Solicitors for two years to January 2018, provided his personal bank account details on one occasion to the other side’s solicitors and on another to the other side’s insurance company in two matters.

The SRA said: “The insurance company retained the bank details and made five further payments to Mr Khan in error. Money was paid into Mr Khan’s personal bank account as a result. Mr Khan has not reimbursed the firm or insurance company for the payments.”

Last September, Mr Khan was convicted at Preston Crown Court of three offences of dishonestly making false representations for self-gain and in January was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment, suspended for two years. He was ordered to complete 20 days of rehabilitation activity and to pay a statutory surcharge of £140.

Hafiz Mohammed, who was a paralegal in the immigration department of Birmingham firm Ahmad & Williams for 16 months to October 2018, was made subject to a section 43 order for taking money from clients intended for application fees and legal costs for his own benefit.

He had not made the applications, misleading his clients and employer about them, and has not returned the money. He was dismissed for gross misconduct.