By Ashley Young-
An experienced solicitor practising for more than 61 years has been struck off after significantly overcharging clients in probate cases. Harold Anthony Newell, born in 1938, began practising in November 1963.
Whilst working as a sole practitioner at TS Barkes & Son, Newell made fee-related transfers from client to office account without providing written notification of the costs incurred and in excess of what was agreed, fair or reasonable. He also failed to comply with decisions of the Legal Ombudsman, adjudications of the SRA and/or the court and to disclose material information to his professional indemnity insurer.
Newell, who neither attended the tribunal nor presented a representative on his behalf, was accused of exceeded his normal standard price of £150 per hour or 1% of the gross estate. Instead he settled invoices at 228% of the gross estate, sparking charges of corruption in his dealings. He attempted to mitigate his offence by claiming to have ”always tried to comply with the spirit of the rules but would often be under too much pressure of work to deal with the formalities’.
Three heart attacks he suffered in four days in 2008 did not help his case, despite the ongoing ailments persisting for 8 years. He had open heart surgery in 2015. With probate matters Newell ‘always made it his practice to make payments on account to beneficiaries during the administration period. The beneficiaries who had complained would have had as much as 95% of their share and there had been minimal impact on them’.
He claimed not to have deliberately ignored any decisions or other matters from the ombudsman, and had not deliberately attempted to not disclose material information to his insurer. The tribunal said Newell’s actions ‘resulted in his clients paying without prior notification greater fees than had been agreed and/or were fair and reasonable. None of the files showed any evidence of the work actually carried out and no attendance notes and his clients, whether they were executors or his co-executors, would have had any information on the true costs of his work’.
The tribunal said a solicitor acting with integrity ‘would have actively managed his workload, engaged effective assistance and prioritized his dealings with the LeO and county court. On his own account he had let the papers build up on his desk and then sought to shift the responsibility to junior staff for not adequately bringing them to his attention’.’