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Solicitor handed record £305k fine

Tribunal says Nigel Harvie has 'done significant harm to the reputation of the profession'

25 March 2015

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A solicitor who took unfair advantage of a former client has been fined £305,000 by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT).

Nigel Harvie gained ownership of a former client's house which was valued at £300,000 in 2005, in return for paying for care and living costs of up to £200,000 over a period of five years.

The property was worth £800,000 by 2012.

Harvie had prepared a will for the deceased in 2004 in which she expressed a wish for her estate to be used to set up a trust fund to help foreign students, which has not happened. His client died in 2010.

He admitted to entering into a financial arrangement with a former client where their mutual interests potentially conflicted, and acting in a way that was contrary to his position as a solicitor.

During the course of the tribunal he stressed that the former client was happy with their arrangement and that the co-executor of her estate was aware of his actions at all times, but failed to advise her to take independent advice as he stood to financially gain from the arrangement.

The Solicitors Regulation Authority's (SRA) executive director for legal and enforcement, David Middleton, said: 'The SRA is committed to working with solicitors and firms to raise standards and uphold core professional principles. Solicitors occupy unique positions of trust often on behalf of vulnerable members of the public.

'Mr Harvie abused that trust, and the record level of the fine clearly reflects the seriousness of this betrayal. Although Mr Harvie stated that his former client was happy with the arrangement put in place, he should have ensured that she seek independent advice at the outset because he stood to gain financially and therefore there was a clear conflict of interest.'

Harvie has also been ordered to pay over £37,000 in costs.

Prior to this case the most an individual solicitor had been fined was £40,000, while the highest fine of £50,000 was handed to Fuglers.

The prosecution was brought by the SRA after neighbours of the deceased woman complained that her wishes had not been carried out.

Harvie stopped practising as a solicitor in 2012. He has 21 days from receipt of the SDT's decision to appeal and has 12 months to pay the fine.

 

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Legal services Vulnerable Clients Wills, Trusts & Probate