A solicitor who had an unblemished 40-year career until he agreed to sell his practice to jailed lawyer Thomas Byrne is never to seek work in the profession again after being found guilty of misconduct, the High Court heard.
Donal Corrigan, formerly practising at St Agnes Road, Crumlin, Dublin, agreed in 2005 to sell his practice to Byrne who later sent Mr Corrigan a cheque for the purchase which bounced.
By that stage, Byrne's own practice had been shut down by the Law Society after an investigation into his activities began in 2007.
In 2013, Byrne was sentenced to 16 years imprisonment, four suspended, for stealing €52 million from banks and defrauding clients out of their houses and money.
Mr Corrigan had taken out a mortgage on the strength of the proposed sale of his practise and KBC bank later took over his premises to repay the loan, John Bourke, solicitor for Mr Corrigan, told the court.
Mr Bourke asked the President of the High Court, Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns, not to strike Mr Corrigan off the roll of solicitors as he was now aged 67, no longer practising and would not seek to practice in the future.
He sought a permanent deferral of the strike-off application.
Mr Corrigan had led an unblemished career, mostly as a sole practitioner since 1979, until he agreed to sell to Byrne which was around the same time Mr Corrigan’s wife suffered a serious health problem, Mr Bourke said. Mr Corrigan is now her full-time carer.
The Law Society had "reluctantly" recommended his striking off after a Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal found him guilty of misconduct, Paul Anthony McDermott BL, for the society, said.
The findings related to inadequate professional service to clients, failure to refund monies due to clients and failure to comply with undertakings to KBC bank.
While there were significant mitigating factors, there were an “enormous” number of complaints, counsel said.
Mr Bourke, appealing to the judge to permanently defer the strike-off application, said a number of other solicitors from the Dublin 12 area were in court to give moral support to a good colleague who over the last 20 to 40 years “did not let them down”.
All Mr Corrigan’s problems started in 2005 when his wife fell ill and he agreed to sell his practice to Byrne, Mr Bourke said. Mr Corrigan was remiss in accepting a cheque from Byrne rather than a bank draft, he added.
The misconduct matters against him could have been resolved within months had he not allowed all the problems to build up following what happened with Byrne.
Had someone taken over his firm, all these problems “would have gone away”.
Mr Corrigan asked the court to adjourn the strike off application generally “and let him have his dignity and fulfil his life as somebody who did some good service to the public”.
Mr Justice Kearns said this was not a case, unlike others, where there was a strong recommendation from the Law Society for a strike off.
The judge said, while he was in no way condoning the conduct, he would, having heard Mr Bourke’s submissions and given Mr Corrigan’s age and the fact so many of his colleagues were present in court to support him, grant the application to adjourn the matter generally on the basis Mr Corrigan never practises in the future.