North Norfolk solicitor struck off
Richard BatsonA dishonest Norfolk solicitor who said he charged the estates of dead clients depending on the weight of the file has been struck off.Trevor 'Trent' Hobden, 47, charged almost triple the proper fee and billed for thousands of pounds when he had done no work at all, the Solicitors' Disciplinary Tribunal heard.Richard Batson
A dishonest Norfolk solicitor who said he charged the estates of dead clients depending on the weight of the file has been struck off.
Trevor 'Trent' Hobden, 47, charged almost triple the proper fee and billed for thousands of pounds when he had done no work at all, the Solicitors' Disciplinary Tribunal heard.
Asked by investigators how he calculated fees, Hobden said: 'When you cost a file you put it in your hand and weigh it.'
He did not send out any bills but simply transferred money from the clients' cash account into the company's accounts.
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Hobden's costs took up all the money left in one estate and he closed the file, the hearing was told.
The lawyer had been an equity partner in the Canada House Partnership, based in Grammar School Road, North Walsham, Norfolk, since 1999.
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He was well known in the area as a member of the local Round Table, and helped community projects, such as doing free legal work to help the town's Millfield Preschool Playgroup move 10 years ago.
Hobden is now the sole practitioner of Convey First in Thorpe Road, Norwich, which he will now have to abandon from December 8.
He was found guilty of taking money from a client account in respect of costs without delivering a bill, taking money which was not properly due to him, overcharging a client and failing to give clients proper information. But he was cleared of having compromised or impaired his integrity.
Tribunal chairman Nicholas Pearson said: 'The allegations which we find proven are serious allegations.
'We have found the respondent to have been dishonest in his actions. Had we not found that, we would have found him in any event to be grossly reckless.'
The hearing heard that one estate was charged �13,571, and the money was taken from the client's cash in 14 transactions without a bill being sent.
The estate of Roy Ellis charged more than �8,000 in four separate transactions between November 2004 and April 2005, removing all its remaining cash assets.
David Barton, for the Solicitors' Regulatory Authority, said the file had actually been 'dormant' for a long period of time. When Hobden charged �3,000 in November 2004, no work had been done to justify the fee.
'His dishonesty was shown by the frequency of billing and an absence of work to support those bills,' Mr Barton added.
When he was questioned by investigators Hobden said he had not been properly trained to cost work and said he weighed the file in his hand.
Giving evidence to the tribunal he said: 'I felt I was justified' but admitted his behaviour was 'careless.'
Former partner at Canada House, solicitor Nick Sutherland, said: 'Trent Hobden became the head of the probate department at Canada House in North Walsham, in 2004. Around a year later, our internal systems brought to my attention irregularities in the way Mr Hobden had been billing probate files.'
'After a thorough internal investigation, I reported Mr Hobden to the Law Society in 2005. I am disappointed it has taken more than four years for the Solicitors' Regulation Authority to conclude the complaint I made.'
'So that no one lost out, I have personally reimbursed the clients affected by Mr Hobden's actions to the tune of �35,000. I am saddened that the clients were not treated properly by Mr Hobden.'
'I am glad it has finally been resolved.'