Solicitor leaves roll after misusing dormant client money

SRA: Solicitor had tried to find recipient back in 2001

A solicitor who transferred £15,000 that was long sat dormant in client account to his firm’s office account has agreed to remove himself from the roll of solicitors.

Andrew Bonell admitted that the invoice he drew up for supposed post-completion work was for more than the work justified and not sent to anyone.

In a notice published last week, the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) recorded that Mr Bonell retired last year anyway. He argued that, as a result, there was “no ongoing risk to the public of any repetition of this breach”.

He was the founder of Stratford-upon-Avon firm Bonell & Co, which was acquired by Alsters Kelly in January 2021.

The SRA said that, in 2001, he was instructed by a bank to oversee the sale of a commercial property formerly owned by two business partners. The proceeds were to be equally distributed to the partners once all charges had been met.

After the sale, the firm distributed the half share to the first partner but was unable to locate the second.

“The SRA is satisfied that Mr Bonell made reasonable and genuine attempts to locate the second partner at the time. The issue of concern is how he addressed being left with the funds unable to pay them to the second partner.”

Some 17 years later, in April 2018, Mr Bonell transferred £15,323 out of client account into office account, drafting an invoice for this sum some months later that stated it was for “all post completion work”. The invoice was not forwarded to any party or client in the matter.

Mr Bonell admitted that the post-completion work done did not justify this amount of money.

In November 2022, Alsters Kelly was contacted by the second partner’s representatives about her share. Following a review, she was reimbursed fully with interest in January 2024.

Mr Bonell admitted multiple rule breaches, including that his conduct lacked integrity.

In mitigation, he stressed that he had tried to contact the second partner and her potential creditors – his intent was not personal gain but to close a dormant account that had been open for over 17 years. Further, it was “a singular breach after a long career”.

Mr Bonell also submitted independent evidence, which the SRA has accepted, “that he could not fully engage with the processes required for this matter to be investigated further and referred to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal”.

As a result, the SRA said, removal from the roll was the appropriate outcome.

Mr Bonell provided undertakings to remove himself from the roll and not seek restoration – or work of any kind with a law firm – without the SRA’s consent.

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