A SOLICITOR who overcharged in NHS clinical neglicence cases has been struck off after a High Court Judge agreed that fining him £30,000 was too lenient.
Andrew Good, founder of Hull firm Rapid Response, was fined by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) for setting a £400 hourly rate for cases and producing bills that were “unreasonable and disproportionate.”
In one case a bill of £37,298 was reduced to just £3,330, after it was challenged by the NHS Litigation Authority.
Costs specialists Acumension, who acted for the NHS LA, “had refused to continue to negotiate with the firm as regards costs, finding their bills to be ‘beyond obscene’”.
The Solicitors Regulation Authority, which is responsible for regulating the professional conduct of more than 125,000 solicitors, appealed, saying the fine was “excessively lenient and clearly inappropriate”.
In a ruling earlier this month, following a hearing in March at the High Court, Lord Justice Flaux agreed saying there were "clear and obvious errors of principle” in the SDT's decision.
Overturning the SDT's decision, he found Mr Good had been dishonest, saying that "the only proper conclusion would have been that, in rendering the Bills which he knew to be excessive or grossly excessive and artificially high, Mr Good was dishonest in the first place.
"Whilst the fact that the firm never actually recovered excessive costs, and the other matters that the SDT refers to, may mitigate the gravity of that dishonesty, they cannot eradicate it."
He said it was "of paramount importance" that the public and other members of the legal profession should have "complete trust in a solicitor when it comes to statements or Bills of Costs.”
He added: “The serious lack of integrity demonstrated by Mr Good in relation to the Bills of Costs he rendered completely undermined any such trust.”
Ordering that he be struck off the Roll of Solicitors he said: “I do not consider that the public would regard it as acceptable that someone who has breached that trust in the way in which Mr Good did should be allowed to act as a solicitor.”
Helen Vernon, chief executive at NHS Resolution, welcomed the judgement.
She said: "This is public money and Mr Good’s actions were an attempt on funds which should be used for patient care."
Rapid was acquired by Neil Hudgell Solicitors in 2014. The issues under scrutiny all took place before the sale.