An experienced conveyancer has been struck off for falsifying the completion date of a transaction in a report to tax authorities in order to avoid a late registration penalty of £100.
John Martyn Lewis, who qualified in 1978, held his hands up to the misconduct, claiming the dishonesty was an “isolated aberration” in an otherwise distinguished career.
Mr Lewis, a solicitor at three-office North Wales and Cheshire firm Allington Hughes, amended a filing made to the Welsh Revenue Authority (WRA) to make the completion date of the transaction less than 30 days earlier.
This avoided making his client – and therefore his firm – liable for a late registration penalty. Returns made more than one day but less than six months late carry a penalty of £100.
The TR1 should have been submitted by 13 January 2019. On 15 January, the solicitor’s secretary had accurately sent in the correct date of completion, namely 14 December 2018.
However, on the same day Mr Lewis contacted the WRA to amend the submission to 18 December, and then instructed his secretary to confirm it.
When confronted by his firm’s compliance officer, Mr Lewis admitted he had “deliberately misled” the authority in an attempt to avoid a penalty charge.
Agreeing an outcome with the Solicitors Regulation Authority – meaning there was no hearing in person – Mr Lewis said he could not explain his thoughts at the time, and accepted there were no extraordinary circumstances.
Approving the strike-off, the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal said the sanction was “appropriate and proportionate”.
It said the solicitor had “knowingly and consciously amended the date so as to avoid any penalty” in breach of his professional duties. “Public confidence in the reputation of the profession demanded no lesser punishment”.
Mr Lewis was also ordered to pay costs of £3,000.