A solicitor who admitted professional misconduct, including giving false information to a financial institution to help his sister obtain a mortgage, has been struck off by the High Court.
Patrick E Callanan (53), formerly practising in Wells & O'Carroll Solicitors, Main Street, Carrickmacross, Co Monaghan, had in 2015 been prevented practising as a solicitor for ten years by the court after he admitted providing false certificates in relation to the earnings and employment of his sister to Permanent TSB in 2004.
He also admitted giving multiple solicitor’s undertakings to lending institutions to register a first charge in their favour in relation to a property in Carrickmacross.
Mr Callanan, who wanted to remain on the Roll of Solicitors on his undertaking not to practise again, appealed the 2015 High Court decision to ban him from practising for ten years. He argued the court had no jurisdiction to impose such a ban.
The Court of Appeal found in his favour and sent the matter back to the High Court for reconsideration.
On Wednesday, the president of the High Court, Mr Justice Peter Kelly, rejected Mr Callanan's plea not to strike him off on the basis that he would never practise again.
Mr Callanan, who has not practised since 2009, obtained alternative employment in 2015 assisting a government department to organise a new programme. He said, if he was struck off, this employment might come under threat or cause difficulties in advancing his new career.
He said there was a stigma attached to being a struck-off solicitor and he believed a lesser sanction was sufficient to maintain confidence in the solicitors’ profession.
Property in China
Mr Justice Kelly said to refuse to strike him off would be to “endorse the notion he is a fit and proper person to remain on the Roll”.
While Mr Callanan had sold property of his in China to ensure there was no financial loss, including to his partner in the Wells and O’Carroll legal firm, the judge also said the case involved “serial acts of dishonesty” which were premeditated and were protracted over a number of years.
Mr Callanan had said he had provided the false certificates for his sister because he was under extreme emotional pressure to assist her in buying a property following her return from the USA in 2004, the judge said.
While this might be explained by a “misplaced sense of loyalty” to his sister, it was nonetheless dishonest, the judge said.
A Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) had correctly characterised the misuse of multiple undertakings to financial institutions on the same property as the more serious matter, the judge said.
The SDT had recommended that Mr Callanan be given only a limited practising certificate, but the Law Society wanted him struck off when the case first came before the High Court in 2015. The then president of the High Court, Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns, instead imposed the ten-year ban which was appealed.
In his decision on Wednesday, Mr Justice Kelly said he also did not believe the SDT recommendation should be followed.
The judge said he took into account Mr Callanan’s efforts to ensure nobody suffered financial loss, his age, that he had not practised for ten years, the possible effects on his future career if struck off, and his perpetual undertaking not to practise again.
The judge said he was fully conscious of the necessity to ensure the penalty was proportionate and appropriate but, notwithstanding arguments made on Mr Callanan’s behalf, was unable to conclude he should not be struck off. It would be a “disservice” to the profession if his name remained the Roll, he added.