Litigation Disciplinary Tribunals 21/02/95

GEOFFREY MICHAEL DIXON, 48, admitted 1973, practised as G B Dixon, Normandy, Guildford, struck off and ordered to pay u4,497 costs. Allegations substantiated he wrongly drew and used client money, failed to disclose material information to client, failed to honour professional undertakings given by him, failed to reply to correspondence from Solicitors Complaints Bureau. Tribunal told shortfall of u970,000 had been discovered on his client account as result of his mishandling of mortgage funds provided to him by lending institution clients. He was said to have failed to comply with undertakings not to part with the mortgage funds unless the position of lending institutions had been protected. No claim has been made on Law Society Compensation Fund but Solicitors Indemnity Fund said to be preparing to deal with substantial claims. Tribunal said Dixon appeared to have been "unacceptably cavalier". He appeared to have used mortgage advance money for purposes which suited clients or companies controlled by them, without regard for his duty and interests to lending institutional clients. His behaviour had been "wholly unacceptable".

GEOFFREY FREDERICK HAZELL, 57, admitted 1963, practised as Geoffrey F Hazell, Cranleigh, Surrey, struck off and ordered to pay u2,785 costs. Allegations substantiated he wrongly drew, used and misappropriated client money, breached accounting rules, practised without current practising certificate. Tribunal told Hazell's activities have resulted in claims totalling u8,642 on Law Society Compensation Fund. Investigation of Hazell's books showed minimum shortfall of u14,819. Hazell, in submissions to tribunal, admitted the allegations against him and said his problems began in 1993 when he suffered from health problems. Also, he said his practice had been primarily in conveyancing field and work had fallen off. He said he had suffered the problems encountered by many sole practitioners, particularly having no-one with whom he felt he could discuss problems. Tribunal said it had sympathy for him. He appeared to have made errors of judgment and then found himself in private practice undertaking conveyancing at a time of severe financial recession when such work almost dried up. However sympathetic they might feel, though, they could not condone the utilisation of client money for a solicitor's own purposes. Clients had to be able to entrust their solicitor with their money without any doubt as to its safe-keeping.

MICHAEL EDWARD HEPWORTH, former solicitor's clerk with Clifford Chance, London, banned from working for solicitors in future without written consent of Law Society. Tribunal told he had been employed in Clifford Chance's finance department, but was dismissed in 1992 after he admitted stealing money. A total of u63,000 had been taken over two and a half years. In a number of cases clients had inadvertently paid a fee note a second time and Hepworth had then requisitioned cheques in favour of his nominee, misappropriating the second payment. All such money has been replaced by the firm. In October 1992 he pleaded guilty at Knightsbridge Crown Court to nine theft counts ranging from u575 to u7,015 and was jailed for 16 months.