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Tipp Ex

Changing the digital version proved to be more tricky.


A senior property solicitor has been struck off for telling a trainee to change the date on a property form, after the firm missed a time limit.

Michael Thompson was a partner at Welsh firm Marchant Harries and, in effect, the head of the firm's conveyancing team.

The firm was acting on a transaction, and had 21 days from completion to register the mortgage for a property with Companies House. The application was initially rejected because the filing fee had been omitted. When a trainee re-submitted the form, it was then rejected for being out of time.  

Thompson told the trainee that she didn't need to apply for a court extension, as she could just amend the mortgage deed to a later date, to bring it within the 21-day time limit. 

The trainee told the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal that when she asked Thompson if this was acceptable, he replied that it was "fine" and that he had done it before. The trainee said she did not get the impression that the conduct was "dodgy", as she trusted the partner to give sound advice.

In another property transaction, Thompson also submitted a falsely certified copy of a mortgage deed, with a wrong date.

Thompson apologised to the tribunal and said that factors, such as ill-health, meant that he was "not thinking straight" at the time and was on "autopilot."

The partner also told the tribunal that he did not believe his conduct was wrong at the time, because of the training he had received at the firm (between 2005-2007). Thompson claimed that during his training contract, a supervisor had shown him how to "Tipp-Ex out" and amend dates on a document, which were then photocopied and submitted to Companies House as a "true copy". 

The former supervisor explained to the tribunal that he had used Tipp-Ex to amend documents only before they had been executed, not afterwards. The tribunal found the supervisor to be credible.

The tribunal held that even if Thompson had genuinely believed he had been taught to act in this way, it was "fundamentally implausible that any solicitor would believe that such a course of action would be permissible".

"By the time Mr Thompson was a partner and had seven years post-qualified experience, he would (if honest) have been incapable of believing that having the deed altered in this way would be acceptable," said the tribunal.

The tribunal found that Thompson had acted dishonestly and without integrity, and there was no evidence that the balance of his state of mind should displace what a solicitor would think was acceptable.

Thompson’s barrister said that his client was a "safe, competent and professional man", who still had "much to offer the profession", and should not be punished in the same way as a fraudster seeking to make financial gain. He argued that Thompson be suspended, rather than struck off. 

But the tribunal said that Thompson had wanted to conceal an error and was in full control of the matters. He continued to blame others and was unable to show insight into the seriousness of his actions, deemed the tribunal.

The tribunal struck Thompson off the roll and ordered that he pay £22,200 in costs.

Thompson is not the first property lawyer to be struck off for amending a date on a form.  

Tip Off ROF

Comments

Sensible 19 August 22 09:29

So his defence was:

”It was acceptable in the noooooooughties. It was acceptable aaaaaaaatttttttt the tiiiiiiiiime.”

Stevie Wonder and Law (finally) 19 August 22 09:40

That's me done for today.

Wandering around humming "Subpar Supervision" to the tune of Stevie Wonder's "Superstition" ...

Thanks for the earworm, RoF!

Human 19 August 22 11:10

Sorry but where's the harm in this case? Yes it was a compete mess, and yes technically the whole shebang needs to be reexecuted at ruinous expense but nobody loses from this.

Anonymous 19 August 22 11:55

Subpar supervision da da dum dum da da dum ...

That is never going to leave my head now ...

Anonymous 19 August 22 15:08

@Human

I previously worked with a sole practitioner (long since retired) who used to say the same "Who does it hurt?". Well when the client's lender commenced repossession proceedings it came to light as the mortgage was advanced 25 odd days before the date on the mortgage deed- so it hurt the firm's indemnity policy!!

Anon 21 August 22 13:28

@ human 

“Sorry but where's the harm in this case? ”

Are you serous?  A solicitor repeatedly forged documents ?

 

Anon 21 August 22 16:01

This practice is very very common. 
Anyway, if he had just got the mortgage resigned, instead of just changing the date, it would have been fine. 

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