'Dishonest' Norwich trainee solicitor banned from legal profession
PUBLISHED: 07:30 19 September 2019 | UPDATED: 11:56 19 September 2019
A trainee solicitor has been rebuked for "dishonest" conduct and banned from work in the legal profession by a regulator.
Thomas Barnes, a then-employee at the Norwich law firm MJP Conveyancing Limited, denied amending a document but later admitted having done so.
Mr Barnes, who worked in the exchange and completions team, was asked to redraft a change of ownership notice for a property after it was found to contain the wrong name for the new owner.
But instead he altered the name on the existing copy and gave it to the landlord, who queried it with the Thorpe Road firm.
And when asked, Mr Barnes denied making the amendment, and claimed it had been backdated by the managing agent.
However, following an internal investigation, Mr Barnes accepted he had amended the notice.
He was given a formal warning for his actions, which took place in November 2018, but the firm found he had caused no detriment.
The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) reached a decision on Wednesday, September 11, and ended disciplinary proceedings against Mr Barnes.
A report on the settlement, published on Tuesday, September 17, stated that he should not work or be paid as a solicitor or in relation to a solicitors' practice from the date of the agreement.
He should also not work for, manage, or have an interest in any recognised body, or be paid by any manager or employee of any such body, without prior permission.
The report also states that Mr Barnes accepted the rebuke, and agreed to the publication of the agreement, and to pay the costs of the investigation of £300.
The SRA accepted Mr Barnes' admissions that by amending the name on the original notice and serving it directly on the landlord, he breached the principles of the SRA and was dishonest.
The authority found that, as Mr Barnes was not a solicitor, but was involved in a legal practice, by amending a document in order to mislead a third party, his conduct "was dishonest and displayed a lack of integrity", and made it undesirable for him to be involved in a legal practice, and his actions were described as "deliberate, neither trivial nor justifiably inadvertent, and had the potential to mislead others", but caused "no lasting significant harm".
The SRA recognised Mr Barnes had learnt from the experience and would not repeat it and agrees not to deny responsibility for it.