26 March 2015
The newest card in the Dodgy Solicitors pack has the distinction of recording the biggest fine ever levied by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal.

In 2005 Nigel Harvie convinced a former client to sign her £300,000 house over to him in exchange for payment of her care and living costs. Over the next 5 years the Oxford solicitor spent £200,000 on her soup and pills until the death in 2010. Two years later Harvie's nest egg was valued at £800,000.



Harvie was pulled up on his arrangement when neighbours complained to the Solicitors Regulation Authority that he didn't appear to be honouring his ex-ex-client's will, which called for her estate to be used to set up a trust fund to help foreign students. Harvie admitted not advising the woman to take independent advice, and that he had acted in a manner contrary to his position as a solicitor. However he told the SDT that she was only his client for a very brief period in 2004 when he drew up her will, and that she was very happy with their subsequent deal.

The SDT said the public would be "appalled" at his behaviour and fined him a record £305,000. The previous largest fine for on an individual was £40,000, and the largest ever was £50,000. Executive Director for Legal and Enforcement David Middleton said Harvie had abused the trust the public puts in solicitors and that the penalty "clearly reflects the seriousness of this betrayal". And the rise in house prices.
 
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Comments

Anonymous 27 Mar 15

So did he keep the house? Because 800k minus the 200k spent and the 305k fine still leaves him in the black (even after accounting for inflation etc).

Anonymous 30 Mar 15

Not a great story but what if the old dear lived on a few more years or there was a house price crash? Would the fine have been so steep? I doubt it. Bit naive of Harvie to not get client to get independent advice on substantial transaction though and you'd think the woman herself might have done or even the co-executor? I've seen worse things done by solicitors but not fined or reprimanded to this level. One I came across tried to charge £200k for administering an estate that had 8 assets (all liquid except one property) and value of £1.2m. Reported to SRA and not even reprimanded. Now that's just theft!

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