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Solicitor struck off for overcharging probate clients

The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal has struck off a solicitor with 55 years experience for overcharging probate clients.  Harold Anthony Newell qualified as a solicitor 1963. He had been a sole practitioner of TS Barkes & Son of Moreton-in-Marsh.

The tribunal found that Mr Newell failed to provide client care letters or any written costs information at the outset of seven probate cases.

He had told the SRA that he normally charged the lower of either £150 an hour (£175 for more complex matters) or 1% of the gross estate.

The regulator said that, on this basis, Mr Newell’s costs in the seven files represented overcharging of between 91% and 312%.

The tribunal held Mr Newall:

“had taken advantage of vulnerable people from whom he concealed his wrong doing”

“His misconduct extended over a significant period of time and was a repeated pattern of behaviour which represented a gross breach of trust: the administration of estates of the deceased with no oversight whilst families and beneficiaries were still grieving placed him in a great position of trust.”

“There was a long pattern over a significant period of time of the Respondent’s failure to deal properly with his probate clients and there was significant overcharging. The Tribunal was satisfied that his conduct would be regarded as dishonest by the standard of ordinary decent people and that he had dishonestly overcharged his clients, and had done so for a significant period of time.”