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Solicitor rebuked and fined after misleading court and failing to make proper note of hearing

High Court: solicitor criticised in judgment

A solicitor has accepted a rebuke and a fine of £2,000, after a High Court judge found he had misled the court and failed to make a proper note of a hearing.

The misconduct related to 2014, when Gareth Ward Fatchett, then a director of a West Midlands firm trading as Regulatory Legal Solicitors, sought an order on behalf of six clients to freeze the assets of a company involved with an investment scheme.

According to a regulatory settlement agreement published yesterday by the Solicitors Regulation Authority – which means the case will not be referred to a disciplinary tribunal – Mr Fatchett supplied the court with brochures purporting to prove the company was promoting the scheme but which were later accepted to have been produced by another company.

In a 2015 judgment after the freezing injunction was lifted, in critical remarks the unnamed judge said that “at best” the “misrepresentation” had amounted to “serious non-disclosure[s]” which were “obviously highly material and substantial”.

He continued: “In my judgment, they justify if not require the setting aside of the freezing order and the refusal of further relief.

“That is so, characterising the non-disclosure as mere non-disclosures. That conclusion may be all the more compelling in view of the positive misrepresentations that were made, although I do not say… that they were deliberate.”

He acknowledged that a “misunderstanding” may have occurred.

Further, the judge found that a “very inadequate” note of the hearing, recorded and then prepared by a paralegal, had been handed to the defendant company, whose assets were frozen.

It did not include his remark that particulars of the claim should be served within 14 days, or a full explanation be given why not, with the judge adding that the claimant may be in “big trouble” if this was not done.

Mr Fatchett admitted that in one or more of a skeleton argument, affidavit, and oral submissions he had misled the court and failed to ensure a proper note of the hearing, in breach of professional rules.

He agreed to a rebuke, a fine of £2,000, and to pay £9,250 in costs

In mitigation he submitted that the defendant “had not responded to requests for information which would have assisted his understanding” and that an “administrative error” had led to brochures being included in court papers, although the content was similar to the correct brochures, which were also supplied.

The paralegal who had prepared the note was “inexperienced”, he said, while “all members of the team have undergone training to ensure that the errors made in this case are not repeated”.