SRA brings paralegals to book over fake court document and stolen client money

SRA: regulatory settlement agreements

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has banned a series of non-solicitor fee-earners from working in the profession in the wake of one faking a document after missing a court deadline, and two being convicted of fraud.

Under section 43 of the Solicitors Act 1974, they cannot be involved in an SRA-regulated firm without its permission.

Liam David Tinkler was a legal clerk employed by Newcastle firm Winn Solicitors when, in August 2015, he created and backdated a letter to Gateshead County Court in a personal injury matter four days after a deadline he had missed.

It was only discovered in November 2016 when the file was transferred to another fee-earner. Mr Tinkler admitted his conduct and was dismissed.

In a regulatory settlement agreement which means he will not face the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal, Mr Tinkler admitted to misleading the court and that his action was dishonest.

In addition to the section 43 order, he was rebuked and fined £2,000, the most the SRA can sanction an individual without referring them to the tribunal.

In another regulatory settlement agreement, Dianne Elizabeth Spragg also agreed to be made subject to a section 43 order, and received a rebuke.

She was employed as a legal assistant in the Cardiff office of Geldards, where her duties included assisting a fee-earner who was a court-appointed deputy.

The agreement said the firm discovered that, on three matters, Ms Spragg had falsified the signature on a number of cheques worth £105,473 together. The cheques made payable to herself and to third parties to settle debts.

Ms Spragg pleaded guilty to three counts of fraud and one count of acquiring/using/possessing criminal property. She was sentenced to 30 months’ imprisonment.

According to media reports of her conviction in January 2016, Spragg forged 65 cheques from mentally incapacitated clients and spent the money on shoes, clothes and furniture. The firm repaid all the clients.

Meanwhile, the SRA has imposed a section 43 order on Anneka Duke, a conveyancing clerk at Appleby Hope & Matthews in Middlesbrough for over five years before she was dismissed.

Duke was convicted of fraud in relation to her conduct while at the firm. A local newspaper report of her conviction said she misappropriated £1,733 over a period of 16 months. The firm made good the money.

She received a sentence of six months’ imprisonment, suspended for 12 months. She was also ordered to carry out of 120 hours of unpaid work.

Finally, the SRA has issued a rebuke and £2,000 fine to solicitor Richard Pinney, who at the relevant time was a partner with Bath firm Mogers Drewett. He is now a partner at Knights Professional Services.

It said: “Mr Pinney was found to have failed to comply with his legal and regulatory obligations. This included failing to obtain proper identification checks in accordance with the firm’s procedures, acting in a situation where a conflict arose and failing to open separate files for clients.”

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