Carrick Carr Wright
The Yorkshire Post
Tribunal told law firm kept cash for
SEVEN solicitors were accused yesterday of misusing huge sums of clients' money
to try to keep their business afloat.
It was claimed the partners in Hull firm Carrick Carr Wright kept stamp duty and
land registry money in office accounts to reduce their overdraft.
Cashier Kevin Rooney even gave himself a bonus to help pay for a holiday villa,
the Solicitors' Disciplinary Tribunal heard.
In August 2002 the Savile Street-based firm, one of Hull's biggest, was taken
over by the Law Society.
Investigators found the rules governing finances had been repeatedly breached
since at least 1994, said Geoffrey Williams, for the Law Society, with a
£338,000 "black hole" in their clients' accounts.
"I put this as very serious professional misconduct indeed. This case is a
disastrous failure to discharge duty going back over a period or many years."
Mr Williams said there were clear warning signs which would have led any
solicitor to the 'inescapable conclusion' that there were real problems in the
business. But no independent audit was undertaken.
By the time the firm was taken over by the Law Society it had liabilities of
more than £1m. "The firm, which was in terminal decline for several years, ended
in catastrophe," Mr Williams said.
Five special bank accounts were set up to channel clients' money into the office
accounts. Stamp duty was transferred into the office account which was £915,000
overdrawn when the firm was taken over, the hearing was told.
"It wasn't paid, it was left there for indefinite periods. Payment was only made
when pressure was applied," Mr Williams said.
All the solicitors knew what was happening at the firm, it was claimed.
It was also alleged that cashier Kevin Rooney, from Hedon, paid himself a bonus
from clients' accounts linked to the the purchase of a villa abroad. He said the
partners should have notified the Law Society and the police about the cashier,
who is not before the tribunal and is believed to be in Florida.
Charges faced by John Wright, 58, of Hull, Philip Goodall, 47, of Selby, Michael
East, 56, of Hornsea, David Prescott, 38, also of Hornsea, Jonathan Carr, 56, of
Hull, Paul Scott, 45, of York and Malcolm Grassam, 54, of Beverley, include not
keeping books properly, making improper payments from clients' accounts, using
clients' money for their own purposes, making false entries into books of
account, wrongly paying their own funds into clients' accounts and wrongly
retaining payments from the legal service commissions.
The hearing continues.
25 January 2005
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