Fine for complaints partner who “frustrated” Legal Ombudsman

Complaints: Solicitor was swamped

The complaints partner at a West Midlands law firm who “frustrated the Legal Ombudsman (LeO) in carrying out its function” by failing to respond to requests, has been fined £4,000.

Gary Jonathan Glover, a director of Garner Canning, told the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) that he took over the complaints role from the firm’s senior partner, only to be “swamped by what he faced”.

In an unusual move, the SDT reduced the costs Mr Glover had agreed to pay the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) from £17,000 to £10,000.

The tribunal heard that Mr Glover, who qualified in 2002, joined Garner Canning in 2014, becoming a director four years later. Around two-thirds of its work was property, the rest private client and family.

Mr Glover was complaints partner from the summer of 2018 until 2021. The SRA closed Garner Canning, for unrelated reasons, in November last year.

The SDT approved an agreed statement of facts and outcome reached by the SRA and the solicitor. In it, he admitted failing to co-operate with the LeO by failing to respond to requests for responses on two complaints it had received, and also failing to pay two clients the £9,300 that LeO had ordered.

He also failed to provide a prompt response to the original complaint on the latter matter. Though he acknowledged the complaint at once, it was only after the clients chased a few months later that they received an apology but no response to the substantive complaint.

In non-agreed mitigation, the solicitor said there was no risk of repetition of his misconduct because he was now employed as a solicitor with a new, larger firm and had no managerial functions or responsibility for complaints handling.

The solicitor said he took over the role of complaints partner so Garner Canning’s senior partner could give “much-needed attention” to the state of the firm’s accounts and “the financial shape of the firm”.

He was “not the source of the complaints, had a full fee-earning load and was swamped by what he faced”.

Mr Glover argued that “he did not put his head in the sand and ignore everything”. He “strove to meet the challenge but could not in all cases, hence the admissions”.

The mitigation continued: “Many matters were dealt with and resolved. [He] accepts his responsibility but it must be seen in the context of the state of the firm, which was not of his doing and its financial state, which impinged upon the resources, both as to finance and time that were available.

“The respondent worked quite excessive hours to try to address the problems. That is indicative of the seriousness with which he viewed his responsibilities.”

The SDT said: “The operation of reliable and timely complaints system is an important element of practice. The further, repeated, failures to cooperate with the Legal Ombudsman risked bringing the profession into disrepute and undermining public confidence.”

However, the tribunal noted that he had resolved various other complaints on behalf of the firm and agreed that the £4,000 fine was appropriate.

Despite the solicitor having agreed with the SRA to pay £17,000 in costs, the SDT said that, given his “full and early admissions, the limited scope of the allegations, and the fact that the proceedings were not document heavy or complex”, the amount should be reduced to £10,000.

    Readers Comments

  • Sam Barry says:

    How do I recover the Will written by my late Father, Samuel Ignatius Barry, prepared and stored by Garner Canning?

  • Edward Richard Benton says:

    I have only learnt today that GarnerCanning are no longer trading.Both my and my wife’s will were kept with them and I wanted to know what the current situation was,I hope you can enlighten me.I look forward to your response. E.R Benton.

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