A LAWYER who let a Bolton businessman run £8m through her solicitors practice has been struck off.
Barbara Gribbin accepted she had been “stupid” to allow the unnamed financier to make deposits with her firm – then pay him back out of client funds before the cheques had cleared.
And when the cheques had started to bounce she felt “trapped” in the ongoing arrangement, a Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT)hearing was told.
Several of the deposits were tagged ‘Halliwell Bolton’, which the solicitor said was where the man banked, a fitness to practice panel heard.
Shortfalls on the client account at Ice Blue Legal, in Ormskirk, which Gribbin ran, totalled at least £121,000 between January and August 2018, the hearing was told.
Between similar dates, she was also accused of not returning £39,681 of client funds, as part of a string of charges.
In mitigation Gribbin, of Old School Lane, Adlington, said that at the time her firm had been experiencing financial difficulties, with HM Revenue and Customs issuing a winding-up petition in autumn 2017.
She had been using her personal savings and taking out loans to keep her office account going, the hearing was told.
The financier had told her he would sell a property to help her “plug the shortfall”. But when he stopped returning her calls and she was forced to go to his home to confront him, the SDT panel heard.
The disciplinary hearing ruled that Gribbin, who is now insolvent, had breached legal accounting rules in a number of ways, and had often acted recklessly and dishonestly.
Ordering her to be struck off and pay costs of £27,562, SDT panel chairman Mr J A Astle said her problems should have been foreseen.
He added: “Clients had been deprived of funds that properly belonged to them, and indeed those funds had been used to make payments to unauthorised third parties.
“The respondent’s conduct had caused significant harm to members of the public and to the reputation of the profession.”