Solicitor leaves profession after acting for both sides in property deal, another rebuked for “abusive language”

bridal veil

Written consent: solicitor said there was oral agreement for him to act on both sides

A solicitor who acted on both sides of a conveyancing transaction without written consent has agreed to leave the profession.

Derek Michael Stoton, a sole practitioner at Park Legal Services in Westcliff on Sea, also failed to register a client’s property at the Land Registry or pay the stamp duty due.

According to a regulatory settlement agreement (RSA) published yesterday by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), in 2010 Mr Stoton acted for both Mr G, the purchaser of a property, and the seller. He did not obtain their consent in writing to do so, although he told the regulator that he had oral consent.

Mr G could not raise the full purchase price in time for completion and he agreed with the seller to pay the outstanding balance within six months of the completion date. Mr G denied entering into this agreement.

Under the RSA, Mr Stoton acknowledged that, without both parties’ written consent to act, a conflict arose and he should not have acted. He also admitted that he failed to advise Mr G to obtain independent legal advice about the agreement.

The second matter arose after Mr Stoton acted for Miss K in her purchase of an apartment, together with two car parking bays, in 2003. She paid him £2,210 for his fees and stamp duty, and the Land Registry fee of £250.

A decade later, when Miss K came to sell the apartment, it emerged that neither the apartment nor car parking spaces had been registered at the Land Registry, and the stamp duty had not been paid, despite HMRC sending the solicitor several reminders. Further, the management share certificate and the leases were also not lodged at the Land Registry.

The RSA recorded Mr Stoton’s admission that by not being able to account for the money Miss K paid to him, he failed to act with integrity, and by failing to register the property, he failed to act in her best interests.

In relation to both cases, he further admitted that he failed to provide a good standard of service to his clients, and behaved in a way that was likely to diminish the trust the public placed in him or the profession.

Mr Stoton has already closed his practice and took early retirement due to ill health, and as a result the SRA accepted his undertaking to apply to remove his name from the roll of solicitors and not seek to restore it for five years.

The SRA also issued the solicitor with a rebuke and ordered him to pay costs of £600.

Meanwhile, in another RSA, a solicitor who abused a potential client and sent a “threatening” e-mail to another practitioner has been rebuked and fined £750.

Daniel Johnson, a sole practitioner trading as Equitable Law in London, is a one-time partner in the London offices of Shakespeare Martineau and the now-defunct Halliwells.

He admitted that in July 2015 he used “abusive language” during a telephone conversation with a potential client.

A fortnight later, the agreement said, “Mr Johnson sent an inappropriate e-mail to another solicitor the content of which the recipient interpreted as threatening, and caused him alarm and distress”.

He admitted that he failed to behave in a way that maintains the trust the public places in him and in the provision of legal services contrary to principle 6 of the SRA Principles 2011.

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