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Struck off solicitor owes £500,000
A SOLICITOR has been struck off for dishonesty, leaving scores of clients owed cash.
David Webb, 61, of David Webb & Co solicitors, London Road, Westcliff, was removed from the solicitors’ roll due to issues with his handling of a millionaire’s estate.
Mr Webb, a solicitor for 35 years, has hundreds of clients, of which 75 are in litigation. There is about £500,000 in his clients’ account, which should be paid back.
Mr Webb was struck off last December, but allowed to continue practising after appealing.
Details can now be reported after his appeal was rejected by High Court judge Mr Justice Jeremy Baker.
A Solicitors’ Disciplinary Tribunal heard Mr Chris Wilkins was keen to reduce his income tax and Mr Webb advised him the best way to do this was to transfer the ownership of his £600,000 industrial unit – 2A Armstrong Road, on Manor Trading Estate, Benfleet – to a new firm. Mr Wilkins went along with this and was happy with Mr Webb setting up another company in May 2009. Mr Webb did so with accountant Chris Salmon of Leigh-based Francis James & Partners and businessman Stephen Richardson, who owns a neighbouring unit on the Manor Trading Estate.
Mr Wilkins later became uncomfortable with the arrangement and stopped using Mr Webb in early June, 2010, and demanded he halt the transfer, while instructing Hadleigh solicitors Barnes Coleman to act for him.
Mr Webb wrote to Mr Wilkins’s new solicitors confirming he would not register the change of business. Three days later Mr Wilkins died, on June 17, 2010.
Yet after his death, Mr Webb pushed on with the change of ownership and later claimed he had forgotten about ending the transfer. The tribunal judgment said: “Mr Wilkins told Barnes Coleman he was concerned that he was being manipulated by people, including his accountant Mr Salmon.
“He said he had been introduced to Mr Webb by Mr Salmon.
Chris Wilkins described Mr Webb as being ‘in cahoots’ with Mr Salmon.”
The Solicitors’ Regulatory Authority accused Mr Webb of depriving Mr Wilkins’ estate, worth more than £1million, of £600,000. But it later accepted there was no evidence of any loss and could establish no motive for his actions.
Yet the tribunal found Mr Webb guilty of dishonesty by breaching the undertaking and failing to act in the interest of his client.
Mr Webb insisted he has been forced out of business because of an “honest mistake”.
The solicitor said he had absent-mindedly carried on with the proposed transfer of the ownership of Mr Wilkins’s Benfleet business in error.
He said: “I did it because I had forgotten about the undertaking (to stop the transfer) I gave, which was in another file.”
During the appeal Mr Justice Baker said it was “not credible”
he could have forgotten in such a short time. Papers were last week filed by Mr Webb’s lawyer at the Royal Courts of Justice requesting a further appeal and stay of execution. The practice remains open to wind it down, as Mr Webb can no longer carry out legal work reserved for solicitors.
Mr Webb described the strike off as a cloud over an otherwise unblemished career.
Yet, the Echo discovered he was banned from running a solicitors’ practice for three years in 1997 after being forced into bankruptcy due to debts of about £910,000 to banks and businesses.
If you were a client of Mr Webb's email email@example.com or call him on 01702 321151.
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