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Solicitor now bankrupt; Regulator found some clients were charged too much.

Byline: Alastair Craig

ANORTH East solicitor suspended for overcharging clients while dealing with their legacies has now been declared bankrupt.

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) suspended Michael Goodyear for six months after an investigation found he had overcharged on invoices for work dealing with the estates of deceased clients.

The law industry's regulatory body ruled that the solicitor, of Washington, Tyne and Wear, had "acted in a way likely to diminish public trust in him and his profession" and was guilty of "failing to act in the best interests of customers".

Mr Goodyear, who practices as Goodyear and Co in Blyth, Northumberland, was further reprimanded for "acting recklessly".

He was put before a Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) in September last year, which ruled that he had not acted in a way expected of a "prudent" solicitor.

He was ordered to pay pounds 36,000 and suspended from practicing for six months. Now, it has emerged that the solicitor has been made subject to a bankruptcy order during a hearing in London's High Court of Justice.

It is believed he had previously indicated to the SDT that his financial position was "dire".

The petition for bankruptcy was filed by Commissioners for HM Revenue and Customs. In its report, the SDT said: "We have found that Mr Goodyear's conduct was such that he had diminished the trust the public placed in him or his profession.

"He caused clients to suffer due to his conduct. He failed to provide a good standard of service, as a consequence of incorrectly describing items in bills as 'disbursements' when they contained an element of profit, and thereby making a secret profit; contrary to the code."

The tribunal said Mr Goodyear failed to pay a refund from HM Revenue and Customs due to the estate of a deceased client into a client's account.

Noting he had been a practicing solicitor for 32 years and had had no previous problems, it added that "very serious breaches" had been compounded by "the respondent's failure to respond to the SRA when some of the issues had been raised".

"Acting recklessly in providing information that would be relied upon by third parties was a very serious matter indeed, and was not conduct expected of a prudent solicitor," the tribunal said. In representations to the tribunal, Mr Goodyear, a solicitor since 1979, pointed out no clients had complained and said the instances were isolated.

The tribunal adjudicates on alleged breaches of the regulations applicable to solicitors and their firms.
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Mar 2, 2012
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