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High Court strikes off solicitor for dishonestly overcharging

3 April 2019

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A clinical negligence solicitor has been struck off by the High Court for grossly overcharging clients.

The court overturned an earlier decision by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) to fine Andrew Good £30,0000 last year.

Good was the founding partner of Hull-based Rapid Response Solicitors, which had a policy of charging conditional fee agreements of £400 an hour, regardless of the seniority of the staff.

The SDT did find that the fees were “simply to maximise profits which [Good] was the direct beneficiary of receiving” but it did not find his actions to be dishonest.

On appeal by the Solicitors Regulation Authority it was found that the SDT had not correctly applied the Ivey test used to identify dishonesty.

Lord Justice Flaux said there had been five “clear and obvious errors of principle”, including a failure by the SDT to provide evidence that Good genuinely believed he was entitled to the inflated rates.

“That important element of the analysis is simply missing and, on that ground alone, the SDT’s evaluation is fundamentally flawed”, Flaux LJ said.

The judge went on to conclude “that, in rendering the bills which he knew to be excessive or grossly excessive and artificially high, Mr Good was dishonest in the first place.

“Whilst the fact that the firm never actually recovered excessive costs and the other matters to which the SDT refers may mitigate the gravity of that dishonesty, they cannot eradicate it.”

Flaux LJ said there was no need to pass the case back to the tribunal as the gravity of the finding of dishonesty meant the only appropriate sanction was to strike the solicitor off.

He added that, in any event the SDT’s £30,000 fine was an insufficient penalty, arguing that the public and other members of the profession should always “have complete trust in a solicitor when it comes to statements or bills of costs”.

However the original fine was quashed in favour of a strike off. He added: “Contrary to what the SDT appears to have thought, I consider that risk was always present in these cases.

“The serious lack of integrity demonstrated by Mr Good in relation to the bills of costs he rendered completely undermined any such trust.”

Good is considering appealing the court's ruling.

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Ethics Regulation Risk & Compliance Regulators Clinical negligence

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