The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) has struck off a solicitor whose conduct in a sensitive child contact case it described as “atrocious”.
The SDT found that David Kingsley Wedge had also abused his position of trust by borrowing and failing to pay back £110,000 from a probate client.
The tribunal said Mr Wedge “displayed wilful disregard of his professional obligations in the broadest sense” and had “an arrogant disregard of his clients’ affairs”.
Much of his conduct, it found, “motivated by his desire to cover up his incompetence and his failure to properly progress matters in which he had been instructed”.
It said the father who instructed Mr Wedge in a child contact case, RL, had described “with great pathos” the impact on him.
“The year of contact that he lost with his daughter was used against him at court in his application for contact.
“It had a detrimental effect on his daughter who had become distressed, believing that her father did not want to see her and that he did not want to know her.
“He had suffered financial loss, the monies paid to the respondent representing a large part of his monthly income. He had been in debt and suffering from depression.”
The client who loaned money to Mr Wedge, referred to AMD, was still attempting to recover the money from the solicitor through the courts at the time of the solicitor’s disciplinary hearing in March this year.
AMD’s health had suffered, he had lost money and “been caused distress” by Mr Wedge’s behaviour, which had led to “interfamilial disputes”.
The solicitor, born in 1971, was admitted in 2001 and practised as a sole practitioner at Kingsley Rose, a firm in Rhyl, North Wales, which closed in January 2016.
In September and October 2016, the Solicitors Regulation Authority received three complaints about Mr Wedge, including from RL.
Mr Wedge was instructed by RL to act for him in contact proceedings relating to his young daughter in 2013, within two weeks of being prevented from seeing her.
The sole practitioner accepted the instructions in January 2014. After that, the tribunal found that he “failed to issue proceedings or progress the matter, which was one of heightened sensitivity involving as it did a claim for contact with a young child”.
The SDT said Mr Wedge misled RL, claiming his ex-wife had failed to respond to letters which the sole practitioner had in fact not sent.
The tribunal said the public would find the solicitor’s misconduct in this case “particularly distressing” since RL was in an inherently vulnerable position.
The tribunal found that Mr Wedge had accepted a personal loan for £110,000 from AMD in 2008, without advising him to take independent advice and when there was a conflict of interest.
Mr Wedge had been acting for AMD in his role of executor of his sister’s estate; she died in 2007, leaving AMD with almost £250,000.
The SDT said that “shortly afterwards”, Mr Wedge asked AMD for the loan to buy a plot of land and build a house, and the loan was granted without any formal agreements being drawn up.
The situation was unusual in that the loan was also made to Mr Wedge’s fiancé and later wife, who was AMD’s granddaughter. Mr Wedge later insisted that the loan had been made to the granddaughter and not to him.
The SDT found that Mr Wedge had allowed “his own interests to trump those of his client”, in a way that clearly lacked integrity.
Mr Wedge was found to have misled another client, KK, about the progress of a professional negligence claim, sending him emails which were “deliberately crafted” to give the misleading impression that counsel had been instructed.
The solicitor told KK he had resubmitted his claim to the county court “when this was not the case, and he knew it was not the case”.
With both RL and KK, Mr Wedge found to have acted dishonestly in providing misleading information and failing to provide a proper standard of service.
The tribunal also found that he had acted dishonestly in failing to co-operate with the SRA’s investigations, describing him as “contemptuous of the whole regulatory process”.
Mr Wedge apologised for any “distress or upset” he had caused his former clients and said he had been going through an “extremely stressful time” resulting in the breakdown of his marriage.
He was struck off and ordered to pay costs of £16,000.