Solicitor struck off for running up €500,000 deficit on client’s account

Michael H O’Neill had practised as a sole practitioner in Naas, Co Kildare

Judge Peter Kelly said this was ‘yet another case where a solicitor had failed to observe that client funds are precisely that’. Photograph: Frank Miller/The Irish Times

Judge Peter Kelly said this was ‘yet another case where a solicitor had failed to observe that client funds are precisely that’. Photograph: Frank Miller/The Irish Times

 

A solicitor who ran up an estimated €500,000 deficit on his client account has been struck off by the High Court.

There was a “depressing familiarity” to the facts of the case of Michael H O’Neill, who had practised as a sole practitioner in Naas, Co Kildare, the president of the High Court, Justice Peter Kelly, said.

While it was in Mr O’Neill’s favour that he made admissions and sold his family home to partly reduce the deficit, reducing it to €350,000, this was “yet another case where a solicitor had failed to observe that client funds are precisely that”.

While Mr O’Neill had not sought to evade his responsibility, that was “not much comfort” for anyone who suffered losses which the Law Society Compensation Fund was likely to be liable for, the judge said.

Mr O’Neill’s admissions did not compensate for the serious misconduct of a solicitor “dipping into client funds” and using them for purpose for which they never designed.

In the circumstances, the judge said he must grant the application by solicitor Mary Fenelon, for the Law Society, for the striking off order and noted Mr O’Neill was consenting to that.

* This article was amended on July 21st, 2017.