A solicitor who forged documents for a £30,000 loan, secured against his matrimonial home during an “acrimonious” divorce, has been struck off.
The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) said Michael Cahill was “premeditated, elaborate and sophisticated” in securing the money, which was paid into his personal bank account.
Among the documents he was found to have forged were a letter from his law firm giving details about his employment, payslips and a P60.
He forged his wife’s signature, the signature of a partner from his firm and the signatures of a sole director and a consultant from another firm.
The tribunal said Mr Cahill’s estranged wife, who “could be regarded as vulnerable”, had suffered “considerable distress” as a result of her husband’s behaviour and, because he had not made any loan repayments, a charge remained on the property.
“The misconduct, relating to reliance on inauthentic documents for personal financial gain, was so blatantly unacceptable that the respondent must inevitably have known that it breached his obligations as a solicitor, even though it was conduct taking place outside his practice.”
Mr Cahill, admitted in 2002, offered no mitigation and failed to appear at the disciplinary hearing, but the tribunal said he “appeared to deny” the allegations.
In responses to the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) the solicitor, whose law firm was not identified, said he did not consider that the loan application had “any involvement with or relevance to any regulated firm”.
He said there was “no risk” to any client or law firm from the matters raised “from his practice as a locum criminal solicitor without access to client or office monies or accounts”.
He described the divorce from his wife as “very acrimonious”, and her allegations as “spurious” and arising from a desire to “take personal and professional vengeance”.
He told the SRA that he had not forged his wife’s signature and she had signed the loan document.
However, the tribunal said it was “well established from case law” that adverse inferences could be drawn if a respondent failed to give evidence or be cross-examined. Mr Cahill’s failure to engage must “inevitably undermine” the credibility of his denials to the SRA.
The evidence of his wife, who said she was unaware of the loan application, was “detailed and coherent”, supported by a statement of truth and she had made herself available to be cross-examined.
It was not simply “one word against another” because there were six more witnesses the SDT could question if required, including two law firm partners.
Mr Cahill was found, at the end of December 2017, to have caused or allowed documents to be submitted to Loan Logics and/or Exclusive Finance UK which he knew to contain a false signature.
He was found the following month to have produced a letter in support of the loan which “purported to have been written” by a partner in his law firm, when he knew that was not the case, and contained “inaccurate and misleading” information about his employment.
He caused or allowed an undated legal charge, a letter “purportedly” from another law firm and further documents with the forged signatures of solicitors to be sent to the loan companies, along with forged pay slips, a P60 and falsely certified photocopy of a passport.
Mr Cahill was also found to have given the SRA misleading and inaccurate information and in all of his offences to have acted with dishonesty.
He was struck off and ordered to pay costs of £20,700.