A solicitor has been fined £12,500 for improperly ending a client’s appeal against her murder conviction without instructions and then repeatedly ignoring the appeal court’s invitation to explain his actions.
Giles William Benjamin Hayes, an experienced solicitor with higher rights of audience, had agreed to represent the client, Ms S, pro bono in her appeal. He had not acted in the original trial.
But when counsel advised the appeal would fail, he wrote to abandon it – by his account, he did not realise that, by filling in the relevant form, he was terminating the appeal when he simply meant to come off the record.
When Ms S learned the appeal had been abandoned, she wrote to the court explaining that she had not given her consent.
The Criminal Appeals Office wrote to Mr Hayes four times, in 2014 and 2015, asking for an explanation. It finally threatened that he would be compelled to attend court under a witness order if he did not reply by 24 November 2015.
The solicitor eventually responded on 9 December 2015, admitting that he had not had Ms S’s consent but pointing to counsel’s view of the merits of the appeal and claiming that her husband had said she was withdrawing her instructions.
In a judgment, in April 2016, the Court of Appeal nullified the abandonment and criticised the solicitor’s explanation as “singularly unsatisfactory”.
It wrote to the Solicitors Regulation Authority to complain his actions had caused “substantial delay” and “compounded the detriment” suffered by Ms S.
Mr Hayes admitted two allegations of breaching professional rules, saying he had made a “mistake” due in part to suffering from “personal difficulties”, including a partnership dispute.
His misconduct was “a blot on his personal and professional life” and he was “ashamed” to be appearing before the tribunal.
Deciding to fine Mr Hayes £12,500, the tribunal said that, whilst the initial mistake was a “spontaneous act”, his subsequent inaction displayed a “concerning level of disregard to his duties and obligations”.
His failure to respond to the court was “unacceptable” and “disrespectful”.
He was ordered to pay £3,252 in costs.