Rule-breach lawyers forced to pay £36,000

Date published: 19 August 2010

Two Oldham lawyers have been threatened with suspension from the profession and fined thousands of pounds for breaching solicitors’ rules.

Sajit Maboob Abbas (34) and Alan Douglas Cockburn (52), partners in Megsons LLP, of Church Lane, admitted 12 allegations when they appeared before a Solicitors’ Disciplinary Tribunal.

They were fined £7,500 each and ordered to pay £21,000 joint costs, and told if they did not pay they would be suspended. Both have complied with the ruling.

The judgments have just been made public by the tribunal, but go back to cases the solicitors undertook from 2002 onwards, which the panel said showed they broke undertakings, acted without integrity, diminished public trust in the profession, and compromised their ability to act in the best interests of their clients.

They were both investigated by the Solicitors’ Regulation Authority (SRA), and admitted all the allegations at the hearing in London.

There were two complaints to the SRA about money not being paid and legal charges not enforced over a land purchase in Cumbria.

A third complaint was investigated when £145,000 promised by Mr Cockburn on behalf of a client to another solicitor was not paid in July, 2008. The client was a relative of Mr Abbas, who is based at the company’s Bradford office.

By November, the money owed had increased to £170,000 with interest, legal fees and VAT. The tribunal was told both solicitors would do their utmost to make sure the money was paid.

Both partners also admitted paying between £500 and £700 to three personal injury claims companies in Oldham and Bradford for each successful case referred to them, without doing proper checks or telling their clients. One company was owned by Mr Abbas’s father.

They also admitted receiving £250 or 10 per cent of the final fee from a local estate agent, without the knowledge of clients after successful completions.

Both men gave their unreserved apologies to the tribunal and their profession.

The tribunal ruled both had shown an extreme degree of naivety. It was a serious matter and wholly unacceptable to the profession.

Mr Cockburn said: “The penalty was financial, with costs and threat of suspension, and it has been complied with. I am happy that it has been resolved.”