02 November 2018

UK lawyer struck off for living in estate property she administered

The number of large claims in the malpractice insurance sector is increasing.

Sole principal seemed to get the wrong end of the stick about moving in-house, ending in her being struck off and fined.

A UK lawyer has been struck off for buying an investment property with money from an estate and then living in it, and also for billing 68 hours for a single day’s work.Joanne Power, who qualified in 2002, was the sole principal of Diamonds Legal in Buckhurst Hill, Essex. Following a qualified accountant’s report, the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) investigated her firm, which it closed in August 2017. The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) heard that an SRA forensic investigation officer (FIO) had noticed that because legacy payments had not been made from an estate before the residential property in Loughton, approximately three miles from her office, was bought with the residue for the purported benefit of the estate. Ms Powers admitted she occupied the property, but ‘only occasionally’ and she paid running costs personally and not from the estate account, for some of the running costs.

Living in-house?

The tribunal found that she occupied it more than she had claimed over a two-year period, stating she had ‘treated the property as if it was her own, including paying all the bills, when she knew that the property did not belong to her and that she was occupying it without the knowledge or consent of those who were entitled to benefit from the estate.’ Ms Power was also found to have failed over a number accounting and billing issues, and the tribunal found she had acted with lack of integrity and, for the most part, with dishonesty. Ms Power argued in mitigation she had made ‘errors of judgement’ but ‘never with dishonest intent.’ She was struck off and ordered to pay costs of £46,600.