The president of the High Court has refused to strike off a solicitor, who’s the coroner for North and West Kerry, over a finding of professional misconduct against her.
The Solicitors’ Disciplinary Tribunal of the Law Society had made the finding of professional misconduct against Helen Lucey for causing a deficit of 259 thousand euro on a client account.
President of the High Court, Mr Justice Peter Kelly stressed there was no dishonesty by Helen Lucey, principal of the firm Marshall & Macaulay, Listowel in what he said were the very unusual circumstances resulting in the deficit of 259 thousand euro on a client account.
He said no dishonesty was ever alleged against her in her long career.
In the absence of dishonesty, the judge considered strike off, as sought by the Law Society, would be “unjustified and disproportionate”.
He instead imposed the lesser sanction recommended by the Solicitors’ Disciplinary Tribunal of permitting her practise only as an assistant solicitor under the supervision of another solicitor approved by the Law Society.
Justice Kelly noticed considerable improvement in her practice and that a substantial enhancement of the value of the relevant client’s estate was due to her securing the sale of a property for 4.5 million euro when it was earlier valued at 100,000.
Ms Lucey will also be able to continue her role as coroner for North and West Kerry.
The judge upheld findings by the tribunal that Ms Lucey had in 2011 transferred 259 thousand euro to herself from the client account of a deceased woman, without express instructions of the beneficiary of the deceased’s estate, in breach of the solicitors’ account regulations.
He granted an application by Ms Lucey’s senor counsel for a stay on those orders until January to faciliate consideration of an appeal and/or to make arrangements for sale of her practice.
No stay applies on additional orders requiring her pay 15,000 euro to the Law Society plus certain costs.