Solicitor transferred property from co-owner without their knowledge

SRA: Rebukes for solicitor, legal executive and paralegal

A solicitor who transferred the title of a property from a joint owner without checking whether they had agreed to it – and when they knew nothing about it – has been rebuked by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).

The SRA has also sanctioned a chartered legal executive who accepted instructions from someone other than her client without the client’s authority.

In a regulatory settlement agreement – which means his case will not be taken to a tribunal – Stephen Joseph Porter admitted that he was instructed by one of the co-owners of the property to remortgage it and transfer the title from the other co-owner to her husband.

Mr Porter, who was a partner at Oxfordshire firm Bower & Bailey, corresponded exclusively with ‘Mrs G’ throughout the transfer and failed to contact ‘Mr E’.

He failed to confirm that Mr E was aware of the transfer and that Mrs G was authorised to give instructions on his behalf. Mr Porter also failed to obtain and verify Mr E’s identity.

Mr E only discovered what had happened four years later and started civil proceedings against Mrs G. The High Court concluded that Mr E had no knowledge of the transfer, had not signed the transfer document and had not reached any agreement with Mrs G to do it.

The agreement said: “Mr Porter retired and left the firm in July 2017 after the firm concluded an investigation into the matter. No disciplinary or formal proceedings were taken against him. The firm later agreed a settlement for damages with Mr E.”

Mr Porter admitted multiple rule breaches and, in mitigation, said this was an isolated incident and a mistake which provided no personal gain or benefit to him or the firm.

The SRA said his conduct was reckless and a rebuke marked “the moderate seriousness of Mr Porter’s conduct and the impact it had on Mr E, but recognises that there was no dishonesty or lack of integrity”.

Meanwhile, chartered legal executive Christine King – employed by Wiltshire firm McCloy Legal – has also been rebuked.

The SRA found that, in preparing an application for lasting powers of attorney, she accepted instructions from someone other than her client without her client’s authority. In doing so, Ms King did not ensure that her client was aware of and/or understood the implications of the LPAs.

Separately, the SRA has also rebuked Rebecca Bradley, who was a probate executive at Stratford Upon Avon firm Lodders between October 2013 until September 2018 when she resigned.

The SRA said Ms Bradley took £19,043 from client account for her own benefit, leading to a conviction for theft in April. She was sentenced to 16 months imprisonment, suspended for 24 months, and ordered to undertake 200 hours unpaid supervised work.

The regulator also made her subject to an order under section 43 of the Solicitors Act 1974, which means she cannot work for an SRA-regulated firm without its permission.

The SRA has issued a section 43 order to Sibel Simsek, who worked in 2016 as a consultant paralegal at London Solicitors in North London.

During her time there, it said, she created four letters with the intention of misleading her client into believing she had submitted an application to the Home Office. The SRA found her conduct to be dishonest.

Finally, Juhi Valia’s application to join the register of foreign lawyers for the 2018/2019 practising year has been refused.

The SRA notice said this was because she was “not a fit and proper person” to practise as a registered foreign lawyer.

“On 12 October 2018, an academic misconduct panel at BPP University found that Ms Valia had intentionally plagiarised most of a paper submitted as part of her LLM degree. The panel found there was a serious degree of premeditation and recklessness in Ms Valia’s act.

“Ms Valia was not considered rehabilitated at the time of her registration application.”

She appealed the decision to an adjudication panel of the SRA but this was refused.

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