Solicitor who defrauded clients of £144,000 is struck off

Probate: Solicitor took funds from estates

A solicitor jailed for five years for defrauding clients of over £144,000 has been struck off by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT).

Tyrone Anthony Joseph Walker said he was appealing against his convictions, which he described as “wrong and unjust”, and denied the allegations made against him by the Solicitors Regulation Authority.

The tribunal said it took account of what Mr Walker said, but it could not “go behind the conviction” – under its rules, proof of a conviction was evidence that the person involved was guilty of the offence.

“The respondent was clearly aware that if the conviction was overturned, he would be at liberty to overturn any decision made by the tribunal.”

The SDT said Mr Walker, who was born in 1958 and qualified in 1985, had “personally benefitted from defrauding clients of the total sum of £144,206, which resulted in a criminal conviction involving dishonesty”.

It described the solicitor’s misconduct, between 2008 and 2012, as “deliberate, calculated and repeated”.

The tribunal said the sentencing judge at Kingston Crown Court had mentioned the impact on clients and on Mr Walker’s unnamed former law firm partner, who was “subsequently unable to secure professional indemnity insurance and continue in partnership”.

Mr Walker was convicted of seven fraud offences at in February last year. Five of the seven offences involved probate clients.

They involved variously taking money from client accounts – lying to his partner about them and putting fake documentation on files – and misusing estate monies paid to the firm by building societies.

In some instances, he used the money to fill holes in other client accounts, and in others he used it for his own benefit, such to help pay for a property he was buying in Bulgaria and his tax bills.

In mitigation, Mr Walker said he hoped to repay what was owed by the end of November, selling a property abroad to enable this; he could then be moved to a category D prison. He is due to be released on licence in November 2019.

The SDT concluded: “In most instances, his motivation had been personal gain and all of his actions had been planned.

“He had acted in breach of a position of trust where he was responsible for safeguarding client funds but had failed to do so… He was an experienced solicitor and his conduct had caused significant harm to both clients and the reputation of the profession.”

The tribunal said Mr Walker had previously appeared before it twice, the first time paying a fine of £12,500 for accounts rule breaches, the second time £20,000 for a range of offences, including failing to comply with a judgment of the Master of the Rolls.

Mr Walker was also ordered to pay £1,800 in costs.

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