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No dishonesty but two Addleshaws partners handed £5,000 fine at tribunal following ‘discrepancies’

It won’t rank near the summit of publicity-hogging mis-conduct cases seen at major law firms in recent years but two Addleshaw Goddard partners have each been fined £5,000 after being summoned to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) this week.

The financial penalty, which came following an investigation into discrepancies over disbursements, had been agreed by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) and endorsed by the SDT. The hearing on Tuesday (5 November) was uncontested.

As reported last week, property partner Emmett Peters and finance partner David Wilson were referred to the SDT by the SRA after a separate investigation.

The pair, who were fined for ‘mis-describing’ disbursements, were represented at the tribunal by Tim Dutton QC, a highly prominent silk at Fountain Court and a former chair of the Bar Council.

The SRA accepted that there was no lack of integrity on the part of either individual and that the disbursements, however they may have been described, were both properly incurred and chargeable to the clients concerned. The SDT heard Wilson had caused discrepancies in 74 legal bills, while Peters had in 94.

There was no allegation that the pair, who will also contribute towards costs incurred by the SRA, were dishonestly involved or seeking any personal gain and it was recommended that the matter be concluded without the need for a substantive hearing.

Dutton argued that both had already suffered financial penalties after being held back at 2011 partnership levels, in one case amounting to a six-figure loss.

Addleshaw is not subject to any further disciplinary action and the SRA noted the firm’s constructive approach in relation to these matters. No clients suffered any loss.

In a statement, Addleshaw said that its financial systems had been through a ‘thorough review’ by the accountant Deloitte, who had declared the law firm’s systems ‘fit for purpose’.

The SRA referred Peters and Wilson to the SDT after discrepancies were identified in the course of an enquiry into the activities of a former partner Mark Gilbert, which the regulatory body had been investigating.

Addleshaw stressed that the referral for the two current partners was unlinked to the actions of Gilbert, who resigned from the firm in April 2011. The circumstances and matters in relation to Gilbert remain before the SDT.