A solicitor who made withdrawals from a client’s bank accounts under powers of attorney (PoAs) that had been terminated, has accepted the maximum penalty that the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) can impose without referring him to a disciplinary tribunal.
Graham Trevor Parkin, formerly an equity partner at Leeds law firm Henry Hymans, has been fined £2,000, and will pay a further £5,000 in costs, after the SRA concluded its investigation into him with a regulatory settlement agreement.
It recorded that Mr Parkin was, in his personal capacity, the attorney to a Mrs AC under three separate PoAs. The PoAs allowed him to operate and deal with Mrs AC’s bank accounts during her lifetime.
Mrs AC died on 9 June 2015 and did not have a will. The PoAs terminated on the date she died. However, Mr Parkin still made three withdrawals worth £52,000 from her personal bank accounts over the following three months.
The first two payments – for £29,000 and £11,000 – were paid into the firm’s client account “without justification”, the SRA said.
The third payment of £12,000 was initially paid into Mr Parkin’s wife’s personal bank account and thereafter used to fund a further payment into the firm’s client account, which was used to assist with the purchase of a property for Mr Parkin’s daughter.
Further payments were made from the account of Mrs AC, totalling nearly £14,000, including payment for work undertaken on Mrs AC’s property, funeral costs and other expenses incurred by her son, Mr JC, the sole beneficiary of her estate.
Mr Parkin admitted that he failed to act in a way that maintained the trust the public placed in him and in the provision of legal services, but in mitigation said that he was a close family friend of Mrs AC and Mr JC, and all of the payments were made with the latter’s knowledge and consent.
The mitigation continued: “The first payment from Mrs AC’s bank account… was put into the firm’s client account to persuade the Scottish local authority, the seller of a property being purchased by Mrs AC’s grandson, to extend the 12-month right to buy, so he did not lose the opportunity to do so. The money represented the whole of the purchase price. This transaction had been specifically authorised by Mrs AC prior to her death.
“Mr Parkin had paid this money into the firm’s client account, but it was never utilised for the transaction, and remained in the firm’s client account. It has since been returned to the estate and distributed to… Mr JC.”
The second and third payments, both made at the suggestion of Mr JC, were to assist in the short term with the purchase of Mr Parkin’s daughter’s property. The second payment was never paid out, and eventually returned to Mr JC. The third payment was replaced in full, and also returned to Mr JC.
“With regards to the second and third payments, Mr Parkin was under great pressure to complete that day, and out of concern for his daughter, made what he accepts was ‘an injudicious and irrational decision to act in the manner described’.
“A combination of work-related pressures and the close relationship he enjoyed with Mrs AC and Mr JC clouded his decision-making process during the transactions. Mr JC remains a close friend.”
The agreement said Mr Parkin recognised his error “within a very short space of time” and reported the matter to the firm, which in turn contacted the SRA.
“Mr Parkin is aware that the handling of monies when acting as power of attorney provides great responsibility. He accepts he temporarily fell below the high standards expected of a solicitor in practice, and this is a matter of great regret and one that he unreservedly apologies for.”