Solicitor faces jail for failing to comply with Legal Ombudsman decision

Probate: complaint arose from work on an estate

Probate: complaint arose from work on an estate

A solicitor who has failed to comply with a decision of the Legal Ombudsman (LeO) and then a court order enforcing it is facing jail after she did not show up at the committal hearing.

Rhiannon Cory, who was a sole practitioner at Castle Law in the Vale of Glamorgan, has been given one final chance to explain herself or go to jail for 14 days.

Ms Cory was dealing with an estate on the instructions of the personal representative of the deceased.

A Mr Ladbrooke complained to LeO that he was unable to secure from Ms Corry either completion of the administration of the estate or sufficient assurance that she would do so.

In March 2014, LeO ordered her to reimburse £527.28 to the estate, reduce her fees, and complete the administration of the estate and provide a finalised copy of the estate accounts to Mr Ladbrooke.

Despite repeated reminders and warnings, Ms Cory neither responded nor complied and in June 2016, LeO obtained a court order to enforce compliance. It was served on her personally in July and in September an application was made for committal. The hearing for this was on 3 November but she failed to attend that as well.

His Honour Judge Seys Llewellyn QC, sitting in Cardiff, said: “This is in short a solicitor who has hidden her head in the sand and continues to do so… I am satisfied fully that Ms Cory knows of the hearing but has failed to attend.”

As a result, the judge ordered Ms Cory to be committed to prison for 14 days but suspended it “on condition that she attend the court at the adjourned hearing which, subject to further discussion with counsel, I intend to make 28 days or 35 days from now”.

He concluded: “It is urgently wished that she comply with her obligations, rather than suffer the disaster of an actual sentence of imprisonment.”

According to the Solicitors Regulation Authority, Castle Law closed in May and Ms Cory does not currently have a practising certificate.

Meanwhile, barrister Tariq Rehman – still the only lawyer to be ‘named and shamed’ by LeO – has been permanently banned from accepting public access instructions, and suspended for 27 months following his latest appearance before a Bar disciplinary tribunal.

It will run after the 14-month suspension imposed by a separate tribunal earlier this month, taking to total suspension to 41 months, should both the sentences take effect. Both are still open to appeal.

The tribunal’s latest decision follows Mr Rehman’s failure to take reasonable steps to ensure his practice was run efficiently and competently, and for engaging in conduct discreditable to a barrister.

Joint head of Kings Court Chambers in Birmingham at the time, the proven charges involved multiple administrative failures at the chambers in dealing with public access cases, including in the handling of complaints.

One charge was that he agreed to use scripts from Global Immigration Consultants Limited in telephone conversations with prospective lay clients, and that hidden in the fee paid by clients was £100 that went to this company.

Another was that he allowed chambers staff to accept public access cases by sending out client-care letters in his name even though the case had not yet been allocated to any member of chambers.

BSB director of professional conduct Sara Jagger said: “Barristers, and in particular heads of chambers, have a duty to run their practices efficiently and competently. The charges we brought against Mr Rehman, and which were found proved by the tribunal, show consistent failings in competent practice.

“The public is entitled to expect a professional service from a barrister, particularly when they instruct a barrister directly. The tribunal’s decision to impose a permanent ban on Mr Rehman’s accepting public access instructions and a lengthy suspension reflects the repeated failure of Mr Rehman to manage his practice properly.”

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