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Berkshire firm closes

8 December 2009

Willmett Solicitors, a mixed practice with offices in Reading, Windsor, Maidenhead and Woodley, has closed.

A spokesman for the SRA said it was aware that the Berkshire firm was shutting down and was monitoring the situation.

An answer phone message at the firm’s Reading office said last week that the firm had closed “with immediate effect”.

Willmetts was ordered to pay two housing associations a total of £1.35m by the High Court last month after it failed to comply with undertakings made in a commercial property transaction by former partner Jonathan Gilbert.

Giving judgment in Thames Valley Housing Association and others v Elegant Homes (Guernsey) and others [2009] EWHC 2647 (Ch), Mr Justice Mann said: “At the beginning of March 2009, Mr Gilbert sent his partners an email in which he apologised for the mess he had left them in relation to various matters and summarily resigned.

“Since then he has not been available to Willmett to explain what happened in this transaction and why it happened.”

The court heard that Elegant Homes (Guernsey) secured a loan of over £6m from the Bank of Scotland to fund the development in Bray, Berkshire, in return for various charges over the land.

Elegant Homes later agreed to sell some plots of land to two housing associations for around £975,000, and Willmett gave undertakings that it would secure release of the relevant charge. The charge was not removed, but the sale proceeds transferred by Gilbert to Elegant Homes. The Bank of Scotland knew nothing about the sale.

He added: thay he had sympathy with the other partners in Willmett “who seem, prime facie, to have been let down by Mr Gilbert.”

It is understood that the claim will be covered by Willmett’s indemnity insurance. The precise relationship between the court case and the dissolution of the partnership is unclear.

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