A Dorset law firm has been rebuked after taking more money in costs than it was entitled to from a man subject to a deputyship order.
Frettens accepted the sanction as part of a regulatory settlement agreement with the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA). It will also pay costs of £1,350.
Frettons, based in Christchurch, is a broad practice with seven partners and around 50 fee-earners in all.
The deputyship order entitled the firm to fixed costs of £1,500 in the first year and £1,185 in subsequent years, plus VAT.
It said that if the deputy preferred the costs to be assessed, the Senior Courts Costs Office would carry out a detailed assessment on the standard basis.
In the three years before the man’s death in 2015, according to the agreement, Frettons took payment of costs from his estate in excess of the fixed costs permitted, without having them assessed.
It then had the costs assessed and eventually refunded the estate with just under £3,000 in relation to costs billed over and above the amounts set out in the final costs certificates.
Frettons admitted that it failed to behave in a way that maintains the trust the public places in the firm and in the provision of legal services, and failed to protect client money and assets.
The SRA said it considered the agreed outcome to be appropriate because the conduct was “deliberate or reckless and affected a vulnerable person”, and the agreed outcome was a proportionate outcome in the public interest.