A former senior partner who admitted acting “disgracefully” and dishonestly by creating invoices for probate work that had already been paid for, has been struck off.
Andrew Hugh Butler also admitted failing to bank 418 dividend cheques worth around £70,000 over a period of 25 years relating to another estate, describing this as his “skeleton in the cupboard”.
Mr Butler, admitted in 1981, was senior partner of Kent firm Worthingtons until July 2017, remaining as a part-time consultant until May 2019.
The Solicitor Disciplinary Tribunal approved an outcome agreed between him and the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).
This recounted how a partner at the firm reported him to the regulator in May 2019 after the discovery of the cheques relating to the estate of ‘SJC’ which had not been presented to the bank.
When investigating this, the SRA discovered that in respect of two other probate matters, there was a cash shortage of almost £19,300 not shown on the firm’s books of account.
Mr Butler admitted acting dishonestly in improperly transferring the money from client to office account, using three invoices which were not sent to the clients and included some costs “which had already been invoiced”.
These absorbed the final ledger balances, even in though in both cases the final distribution of the estates had taken place several years before.
In an interview with the SRA in January 2021, Mr Butler said he had been diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2012 “and lost all proper judgement”. He added that his workload had been “unmanageable” at the time.
He said he knew his behaviour was dishonest, the partners at the firm were “completely blameless” and he was “full of remorse for acting so disgracefully in breach of even the lowest standards of the profession”.
Mr Butler admitted failing to bank cheques worth around £70,000 between 1993 and 2018 relating to the estate of SJC, who died in 1993, creating a life tenancy for his wife. She died in 2005 and the estate was distributed, but “without certain shareholdings being sold or dividends accounted for”.
Mr Butler said it had “always been in the back of his mind that he had not dealt with it properly” but it had got so far behind that “it was the skeleton in the cupboard”.
The solicitor said, in non-agreed mitigation, that he had repaid his former firm Worthingtons all money that was the subject of the proceedings.
He was struck off and ordered to pay £16,650 in costs.