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Former Blake Lapthorn partner misused client funds, SRA investigation finds

Five payments totalling £221,858 were made without the firm’s knowledge or clients’ consent

23 November 2015

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By Manju Manglani, Editor (@ManjuManglani)

A former Blake Lapthorn partner has been found to have improperly used the UK law firm’s client account in five matters, the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has said.

The five payments, which ranged between £28,660 and £75,000, were made without the clients’ consent, the SRA said in a regulatory settlement agreement published on 19 November 2015.

Neither the clients nor the law firm were aware of the transfers being made by David Harry Salt, which totalled £221,858.

The firm’s risk and compliance department identified a shortfall on the firm’s client account on around June 2012.

An investigation by the SRA’s forensic investigation team resulted in its December 2013 report which found that there were five matters in which withdrawals were improperly made from the client account by Salt.

The client account shortfall was replaced immediately by the firm from its office account; it has since recovered the funds from Salt.

He was found by the SRA to have been in breach of Rule 22 of the Solicitors’ Accounts Rules 1998 for: authorising the transfer of client money from one client ledger to another; making payments to third parties without the clients’ express written consent; and allowing the client ledger to be overdrawn.

Salt also breached Rule 15(3) of the Rules by continuing to use a client ledger after the original retainer had concluded.

Finally, he was found to have failed to act with integrity and in the best interests of his clients and to have behaved in a way that is likely to diminish the public’s trust in the profession, contrary to Rules 1.02, 1.04 and 1.06 of the Solicitors’ Code of Conduct 2007.

Salt, who is continuing to suffer from the significant health issues which affected him at the time of the misconduct, ceased to practice law in June 2012 and does not intend to do so again. He left Blake Lapthorn in June 2011.

The firm merged with Morgan Cole on 1 July 2014 to create a new top-50 UK law firm. It was subsequently renamed Blake Morgan.

Salt has agreed to apply to be struck off from the Roll of Solicitors within 28 days and to not apply to have his name restored to the Roll.

He has also agreed not to seek employment in connection with the provision of legal services again without the consent of the SRA or that of another relevant regulator.

Salt is also paying the SRA’s costs of £1,350.

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