Solicitor accepts maximum penalty for taking client money

A solicitor has accepted the maximum penalty which the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) can administer without referring him to a disciplinary tribunal, following client account withdrawals under terminated Powers of Attorney (PoAs).

Facing an initial fine of £2000, Graham Trevor Parkin who was previously an equity partner at Leeds-based firm Henry Hymans, will also pay an additional £5000 in costs, following the concluded investigation by the SRA who issued a regulatory settlement agreement.

Under three separate PoAs, Parkin was an attorney to a Mrs AC in his personal capacity. These gave him access to her bank accounts as well as operating and dealing with them during her time alive.

The PoAs terminated upon Mrs AC’s death in June 2015, where she passed away in absence of a will. During the three months subsequent to her death, Mr Parkin continued to make three more withdrawals worth £52,000 from her personal bank accounts. The first two of £29,000 and £11,000 were paid “without justification” into the firm’s client account according to the SRA. The final of the three – £12,000 – was paid into the personal bank account of Parkin’s wife, which was subsequently put into the firm’s client account and used to aid Parkin’s daughter cover the cost of a property.

Additional payments totalling almost £14,000 were also made from Mrs AC’s account, including costs of her funeral, work undertaken on her property, as well as additional expenses incurred by the sole beneficiary of her estate – Mr JC – her son.

Admitting that he failed to act in a way correspondent with the trusting perception the public had of him as well as the legal services he provided, Parkin claimed in mitigation that he was a close family friend of Mrs AC and her son, stating all payments to him had been made with full knowledge and consent from the beneficiary.

During mitigation, it was stated that the first payment’s intended purpose was to lengthen the year-long right to buy period for Mrs AC’s grandson: “The first payment from Mrs AC’s bank account… was put into the firm’s client account to persuade the Scottish local authority, the seller of a property being purchased by Mrs AC’s grandson, to extend the 12-month right to buy, so he did not lose the opportunity to do so. The money represented the whole of the purchase price. This transaction had been specifically authorised by Mrs AC prior to her death.

“Mr Parkin had paid this money into the firm’s client account, but it was never utilised for the transaction, and remained in the firm’s client account. It has since been returned to the estate and distributed to… Mr JC.”

The final two payments made at the grandson’s request, were to aid Mr Parkin’s daughter in the purchase of her property on a short-term basis. The second was never actually paid out and third was fully replaced with both eventually being returned to Mr JC. With regards to the second and third payments, Mr Parkin was under great pressure to complete that day, and out of concern for his daughter, made what he accepts was ‘an injudicious and irrational decision to act in the manner described’.

“A combination of work-related pressures and the close relationship he enjoyed with Mrs AC and Mr JC clouded his decision-making process during the transactions. Mr JC remains a close friend.”

Stating that Parkin had realised his error “within a very short space of time” the conclusive agreement acknowledged his own reporting of the issue to the firm, who then passed it on to the SRA.

“Mr Parkin is aware that the handling of monies when acting as power of attorney provides great responsibility. He accepts he temporarily fell below the high standards expected of a solicitor in practice, and this is a matter of great regret and one that he unreservedly apologies for.”

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