A solicitor who last year was found by the High Court to have duped his client by conducting “fictitious” litigation that included faked judgments and telephone conferences involving the impersonation of his senior partner and of leading counsel, has been referred to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT).
The case of Andrew Thomas Benson, who had been working at Byrne & Partners at the time, is one of several recent examples of solicitors misleading clients in this manner.
The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) said the SDT has certified that there was a case to answer in respect of allegations which were or included that Mr Benson: conducted fictitious litigation in respect of a client; caused three withdrawals to be made from the client bank account in respect of clients which were not properly required; falsified documents and correspondence in respect of a client; and misled the SRA forensic investigation officer in an interview.
Last November, Mr Justice Hamblen said: “The deception practised by Mr Benson over a period of more than three years… is rightly described as breathtaking.”
The judge recounted: “From the end of October 2010 until December 2013 he conducted fictitious litigation for [his client]. That litigation involved fictitious hearings before the Commercial Court and the Court of Appeal; purported judgments of those courts; purported sealed court orders; a purported hearing transcript; purported skeleton arguments; purported correspondence with court officials and the claimant’s solicitors, Norton Rose; the fictitious instruction and engagement of various counsel, and telephone conferences involving the impersonation of his senior partner and of leading counsel.
“None of this reflected reality. Throughout that period there was in fact no contact with Norton Rose or the court.”
Last month we reported on strike-offs for a solicitor who failed to issue proceedings, fabricated settlement offers and paid clients ‘compensation’ from his own money, and separately for another solicitor who deceived his firm and his clients for 13 months into thinking that he was pursuing their group employment tribunal claims, when in fact they had been struck out because of his inactivity.
In August the tribunal handed an indefinite suspension to an assistant solicitor who admitted to having “fabricated” advice from counsel, two expert reports and a series of letters on a medical negligence case because she felt “completely panicked and couldn’t see a way out”.