An “old-fashioned solicitor” whose firm “became a mess and spiralled downwards” has been struck off by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT).
The SDT said findings of dishonesty “almost invariably” led to striking off unless there were exceptional circumstances, and Denis Charles Wynn had not argued any.
The tribunal heard that Mr Wynn made 147 improper transfers from client to office account between October 2011 and January 2015, totalling £98,800.
“Dishonesty was alleged, admitted and proved. Even if the respondent’s actions were not pre-mediated when he made the first transfer, by the one hundred and forty seventh transfer they must have been.
“Unidentified clients were the victims of the respondent’s actions. At the date of the hearing the respondent had not yet made good the loss arising from the misconduct, although he intended to do.”
In mitigation, counsel for Mr Wynn said the sole practitioner had suffered a “number of significant health issues” but there was no “premeditated decision” to act in a dishonest way.
“The respondent was an old-fashioned solicitor. He had managed the firm’s accounts with an assistant but without an accountant or bookkeeper.
“It was very difficult to run a practice without the assistance of an accountant or bookkeeper well versed in the requirements of the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA). The firm became a mess and spiralled downwards.”
Mr Wynn was described by his counsel as “a proud, decent man in many respects” whose business had got into trouble.
The SDT heard in SRA v Wynn (case no.11475-2016 ) that the sole practitioner was born in 1942 and based at Denis Wynn & Co in Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire. The SRA investigated the firm in February 2015 after the submission of a qualified accountant’s report and closed it in May 2015.
Mr Wynn admitted making 147 transfers totalling nearly £100,000 from client to office account, which were not allocated to clients and in breach of the accounts rules and SRA principles.
He also admitted failing to give or send bills of costs to clients on seven matters before taking payments of £13,500 from client account, failing to replace a shortfall on client account, failing to return £84,000 of client monies promptly, failing to carry out reconciliations of client account and failing to submit an accountant’s report.
The SDT said Mr Wynn had admitted that “he knew, at the time, that what he was doing was dishonest and wrong”.
The SRA accused him of taking client’s money to put the firm’s office account in order to prevent an overdraft arising and provide working capital. “The respondent was taking other people’s money for his own circumstances. It was inconceivable that any solicitor would not understand this to be wrong.
“There was an irresistible inference that the respondent appreciated that by the standards of reasonable and honest people his actions were dishonest.”
Concluding that the appropriate sanction was striking off, the SDT said: “Whatever the respondent’s personal and health circumstances, significant sums of money were involved over a long period of time and his circumstances did not affect his ability to know what he was doing and that his actions were wrong.
“The tribunal hoped that the respondent would fulfil his intention to make recompense in respect of the client account shortage.”
The SDT ordered that Mr Wynn be struck off the roll and ordered to pay costs of £14,000.