Solicitor who “continuously and repeatedly” lied to client is struck off

SDT: Solicitor did not engage with hearing

A solicitor who “continuously and repeatedly” lied to a client about the progress of his professional negligence claim has been struck off by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT).

The SDT said Andrew Mark Brett had “deliberately and persistently misled” the client and prevented him from pursuing the claim, which was instead struck out.

The SDT heard that Mr Brett, admitted in 1993, began work as a solicitor with Barnes & Partners in Enfield, north London, in 2005.

The solicitor was instructed by ‘Client A’ in a professional negligence claim against LGS Solicitors (in liquidation) and issued the claim in November 2013.

The claim was that LGS had failed, in breach of instructions from Client A, to arrange adequate security for a loan of £2m alleged to have been made by Client A to a property developer, the Bellerive Corporation.

Mr Brett issued a second claim, this time against Bellerive for repayment of the £2m loan, in January 2014.

Bellerive filed a defence in August, stating that there had been no agreement for the loan, that LGS was not acting for the company with the necessary authority, and Bellerive never received the £2m which Client A paid to LGS.

The Bellerive claim was stayed the following month. The stay expired in June 2015, but no further action was taken.

Mr Brett left Barnes & Partners in December 2018, and was reported by the firm to the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA). Client A’s claim against LGS was struck out in January 2020 “as a result of Mr Brett’s inaction”.

The SDT said Mr Brett had not “made any contact” with the SRA or tribunal over the disciplinary proceedings and had “chosen voluntarily to absent himself from the hearing”.

The tribunal found that, between February 2016 and January 2019, the solicitor had failed to progress the professional negligence claim “adequately or at all”, while acting dishonestly in making false representations to Client A about the progress of the case.

He provided false information about court hearings and directions, “pretending that the case was being progressed through the court, when he knew that was not the case”. The misconduct was “calculated and repeated over a significant period of time”.

The SRA said Mr Brett’s representations to the client that he was liaising with the other side and the court “were all false”.

In April 2017, he told Client A that he hoped to have news the following week regarding a listing appointment when no appointment had been made.

He told Client A in June 2017 that he anticipated obtaining a trial date within 14 days, and in October that he was applying to the court to obtain a date. In December, he said the case had been listed for March 2018 but when that came around claimed it had been rescheduled due to the absence of the master.

In June 2018, Mr Brett said the hearing would be the following month and in October told him the trial would take place in November, before telling him in November that, after a directions hearing, it would take place in the spring.

The SRA said three letters were found on Client A’s file “purporting to be to the defendant’s solicitors”, but which were never actually sent and instead were created to give the “false impression that he was pursuing the case”.

Client A appointed new solicitors in March 2019 and they applied to the High Court for relief from sanctions. LGS successfully cross-applied to strike out the claim in January 2020, with the master saying the fact Client A was “actively misled by his then solicitor” was not a good enough reason to grant relief.

The tribunal struck Mr Brett off and ordered him to pay costs of £22,950.

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