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Former Halliwells solicitor struck off for embezzlement 2 July 2010

A former Halliwells solicitor has been struck off after embezzling over £90,000 from the firm's clients.

Martin Roberts, of Bolton, Lancashire, was found guilty of re-directing client monies into his own account and that of a fellow associates during his stint as a real estate lawyer in the firm's Manchester office.

Roberts had recently transferred to another law firm when his behaviour came to light. As well as scamming clients, the court found that he had also been stealing money by overcharging for Land Registry tax.  According to papers, seen by Insolvency News, he had also sent letters to HM Revenue and Customs “knowing the content to be untrue.”

Roberts’ activities came to light during a time when he was absent from the office due to ill health in June 2007. Following an investigation it was revealed that he had sent an invoice to a client– housing developer Cliveden Homes – requesting  for £22,000 to be paid directly to him. But the developer paid the money straight to Halliwells and on receiving the money the firm’s accounts department could not match it to any invoice. An investigation discovered that Roberts had set up four files in the name of an acquaintance who was unaware of his activities.

It emerged that he used these files to siphon client funds into bank accounts held by himself and a relative of the acquaintance.

Halliwells, which is on the verge of entering administration, successfully applied to a court to have his assets frozen when it uncovered his activities and a civil court ordered him to repay £70,000.

The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal said during the review: “The respondent's course of conduct was deliberate and carefully planned and the respondent acted dishonestly.”

The Tribunal has ordered Roberts to be struck off the roll of solicitors and has been ordered to repay 12,231 in costs. The Tribunal said that Roberts conduct had been “disgraceful.”

Halliwells had not responded at the time of going to press.

Last week it emerged the top 50 law firm had appointed administrators after hefty property costs battered its balance sheet. The administrators are believed to be working on a sale of the business to rival law firm Hill Dickinson.



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