Fee-earner who forged clients’ signatures on LPAs banned from profession

SRA: undesirable for fee-earner to work in profession

A fee-earner who signed lasting powers of attorney (LPAs) in the names of her clients and misled the Office of the Public Guardian has accepted a rebuke, £1,000 fine and ban on working for law firms in the future.

Laura Hayley Jackson was an unqualified employee of Oldham firm North Ainley when she was instructed to arrange and register LPAs for a couple.

During a meeting, Ms Jackson failed to have them sign one section of the forms; instead of asking the clients to sign later, she signed the names herself. The LPAs were then sent to the Office of the Public Guardian and registered.

On receipt of the registered LPAs, the clients noticed that it was not their signatures on the forms. They pointed this out to Ms Jackson, who told them that new documents would have to be executed. She did not explain why the signatures were different.

The clients complained to the firm, which dismissed Ms Jackson.

In a regulatory settlement agreement published by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) on Friday, Ms Jackson admitted her misconduct and that in acting as she did, she failed to act with integrity, failed to act in the clients’ best interests, and acted in a way which diminished the trust the public places in her and the provision of legal services.

The SRA said that “in signing a document in her clients’ names, she has acted in a way which makes it undesirable for her to be involved in a legal practice”.

She agreed to be made subject to a section 43 order, which means she cannot work for another firm without the SRA’s permission.

In mitigation, Ms Jackson expressed remorse for her actions and said she had not been the subject of regulatory action by the SRA prior to this.

Meanwhile, solicitor Richard Roy Murrall of Pellys Solicitors in Essex has been rebuked and fined £2,000 – the most the SRA can sanction a solicitor without referring them to a disciplinary tribunal – after being convicted of driving with excess alcohol last year.

He was disqualified from diving for 40 months, and sentenced to a 12-month community order with supervision as well as an unpaid work requirement of 80 hours.

Mr Murrall admitted to the SRA that he had failed to uphold the rule of law.

The SRA said it took into account mitigation that Mr Murrall was “extremely remorseful about the offence. He has also taken appropriate measures to address his conduct to prevent these circumstances reoccurring in the future”.

Further, he had “the full support and confidence of his current employer”.

Meanwhile, barrister David Andrew Blythin has been reprimanded and fined £650 by the Bar Standards Board after he too was convicted of drink driving.

He was sentenced to a fine of £760 and disqualified from driving for a period of 18 months.

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