An experienced solicitor has been fined £20,000 for misconduct after being duped into accepting that a woman was who she said she was because he did not require documentary proof.
It meant that Andrew James Daverson unwittingly helped a man fraudulently borrow against a property owned jointly with his ex-wife.
Mr Daverson was admitted in 2007 and worked at Newcastle firm Tait Farrier Graham, where he was the firm’s head of conveyancing.
Approving an outcome agreed between the conveyancer and the Solicitors Regulation Authority, the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal heard that, when he was asked by a colleague to assist with a loan application, he did not carry out due diligence in relation to ‘Mr X’ or the woman purporting to be his ex-wife, ‘Mrs Y’, who was in fact an imposter.
According to the solicitor, Mr X had initially claimed his wife was at their child’s sports day. He later returned with the fake Mrs Y after being told she had to be present.
Mr Daverson testified that he advised Mr X both signatories would need to provide ID before the loan could be processed. The woman promised to supply it later and on this basis, he said, he witnessed the signatures.
The lender would only transfer the loan money to the firm. When it arrived, Mr Daverson signed an authority for payment to Mr X.
The real Mrs Y, who was living at the property at the time, first learned of the loan when the lender demanded full payment four months later. She reported the matter to the police and it took nearly a year to release her from the loan debt and have the restriction on the home removed.
She told the tribunal that the loan had caused her “a lot of upset”, with her health suffering from high levels of stress.
Mr Daverson admitted failing to undertake due diligence and proper identification checks, and to provide client-care letters, including writing to the real Mrs Y, which would have alerted her to the loan.
In mitigation, he claimed he had shown “insight, remorse and regret” and it was an isolated event in an otherwise unblemished career.
Approving the fine of £20,000 plus costs of nearly £4,000, the tribunal said “significant harm” had been caused to Mrs Y.
It added: “Whilst there was no personal gain… as an experienced conveyancing solicitor the respondent’s failure to undertake some of the most fundamental and basic steps that all solicitors are legally and professionally obliged to complete represented very serious misconduct.”