An experienced private client lawyer who backdated his client’s signature on lasting powers of attorney (LPAs) has been banned from working for law firms.
Robert Dallinson qualified as a chartered legal executive over 20 years ago and has worked at York firm Harrowells throughout.
In a regulatory settlement agreement, he accepted an order under section 43 of the Solicitors Act 1974 – which deals with the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s (SRA) powers over non-solicitors – which means he cannot work for a law firm again without the regulator’s permission.
According to the agreement, Mr Dallinson was instructed in May 2017 to prepare LPAs for health and welfare and for property and financial affairs, with two managers of the firm appointed as the attorneys.
The client’s doctor, acting as the certificate provider, signed and then dated both LPAs the following month, with the client signing them three weeks later.
The SRA said: “Realising that his client should have signed the LPAs prior to the certificate provider, Mr Dallinson wrote in the date alongside the client’s signature, so to give the impression the client had signed the LPAs on 12 June 2017.”
After the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) said one of the LPAs contained an error, Mr Dallinson re-drafted it and had the client’s doctor re-sign it on 1 October and the client at a later date.
But Mr Dallinson wrote in 1 October alongside the client’s signature. Both LPAs were registered with the OPG.
The SRA recorded that, in 2020, the client’s circumstances changed and the local council obtained new LPAs with different attorneys. The council asked Harrowells some questions about the earlier LPAs, which led to a review of the case file and discovery that Mr Dallinson had backdated the client’s signature on the both LPAs.
The firm issued Mr Dallinson with a final written warning, although it only reported him to the SRA earlier this year.
Mr Dallinson admitted he had acted dishonestly in backdating his client’s signatures.
In deciding sanction, the SRA took into account that he has shown “insight and remorse for his actions and accepted responsibility for backdating the signatures”.
Mr Dallinson accepted that “he should have taken steps to correct his errors in the appropriate way”.
His misconduct caused “no actual harm or impact to his client” and he had not acted in that way before.
The SRA said his actions nonetheless made it “undesirable for him to be involved in a legal practice because it was dishonest”.
“By backdating the documents rather than rectifying the situation by starting the process from scratch, Mr Dallinson deliberately misled the OPG about the dates the documents were signed. This conduct diminishes the public’s confidence in the legal profession and the provision of a trustworthy and reliable service.”