Trio from Harrogate solicitors firm found to have been dishonest

Legal system hammered
Legal system hammered
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Staff at a Harrogate solicitors firm have been found to have been dishonest by a tribunal.

Legal Development Partners went into liquidation in 2014, several months after an investigation was started into dishonesty by its regulation authority.

Now staff members have been issued with fines totalling £60,000, while a solicitor has been suspended for two years.

The prosecution was brought by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) which shut down Legal Development Partners in Grove Park Court in 2013 because of suspected dishonesty.

At a tribunal hearing on Tuesday, all three staff members investigated were found guilty of the accusations against them.

All three were accused of failing to act with integrity, failing to behave in a way that maintains public trust, and a breach of the solicitors account rules. Solicitor Lucy-Ann Kirkham was suspended for two years, and is subject to restrictions prohibiting her from being a sole practitioner, owner or manager, as well as forbidden from holding client money.

Mathew Cobley, as well as being accused of the above, was also found to have failed to comply with legal and regulatory obligations and failing to protect client money and assets. He was fined £25,000 and given a Section 43 Order, meaning he can no longer work in a firm regulated by the SRA without permission.

Andrew Simon Whitaker was found to have failed to carry out his role effectively, failing to protect client money and assets. He was fined £10,000 and also made subject to a Section 43 Order.

Mr Cobley was ordered to pay £10,000 costs, Mr Whitaker £8,000 and Ms Kirkham £7,500.