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Solicitor struck off after falsely claiming he had witnessed a client's signature

A solicitor of nine years’ call has been struck off the roll of solicitors following a finding by the Solicitors’ Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) that he acted dishonestly.

Stewart Stocker, a partner at Lauriston Saggar at the relevant time, was acting for a mother and son who sought to borrow nearly £1 million in a property transaction.  On 10 January 2017 he forwarded a number of documents to the vendor’s solicitors which included a loan facility letter and a legal mortgage together with a signed identity certificate of satisfaction.  That document confirmed that he had witnessed the signing of the mortgage documents, that he had explained in full the nature and effect of entering into both agreements and that these terms (and the signature on the documents) had been signed and witnessed independently of each individual borrower.

The loan company established that the mother had been in Nigeria at the time of the purported signing and referred the matter to their solicitors who contacted the Solicitors’ Regulation Authority.

When questioned Mr Stocker stated that he felt ‘pushed into a corner’ and accepted that he should have disclosed that some of the documents were signed in escrow.  He advanced that there had been a misunderstanding but that he did not accept that he had behaved dishonestly.

The Tribunal found that the solicitor was ‘fully culpable for what he had done.  It appeared that his motivation was to complete the property purchase for his clients in time.  His misconduct was spontaneous rather than planned… [he] acted in breach of a position of trust …[and he] had direct control of and responsibility for the circumstances which gave rise to the misconduct’.  It further noted that whilst no financial harm had resulted harm had been caused to the reputation of the profession and that this harm was ‘reasonably foreseeable’.

No formal mitigation was advanced at the hearing but it was noted that Mr Stocker had ceased practising in law as from May 2017.

The tribunal ordered that Mr Stocker be struck off and ordered to pay £4,980 in costs.

A copy of the Tribunal's judgment can be found here.


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