Fraud and abuse

STEP have just sent a set of newslinks round and this story about a crooked solicitor is one of the things that I get an almost visceral reaction to.  I can’t explain it – it just seems as wrong to take money that has been entrusted to you, as it does to abuse the trust of a child – something that is beyond acceptable, and quite revolting.

Its one of those high horse things, I suppose – and heaven knows I am  not perfect  – but to make a mistake is one thing – to set out to plunder the money that belongs to another in order to get yourself out of a hole is disgusting.  Who is the person that you should be able to trust with your money, to look after you – if you pay them a fee for their time?  a lawyer.

There are cynics out there who would undoubtably say that you should never trust anyone – and point out that we once had trust in bankers and look how long we’ve had to pay for that trust.[1]

I can understand that reaction – and especially in jurisdictions where there is a general breakdown of law and order, or where the political system may be less than transparent, and potentially corrupt, temporary or imposed by force.  Those situations are not civilised, the rules of trust there are limited to you and yours and self preservation in a time of trial, of war or otherwise.

But we are living in England.  We are not at war.  We live in a democracy.  Our currency is more or less stable.  This is our civilised time, where we should have standards and trust and faith in those who profess to take care of us.  Profess – abide by a code that is to honor the individual patient or customer or student, rather than to abuse.  That professional code is not uncommercial, but should be reconcileable with business interests, and where they conflict, should prevail.  All solicitors have that in their Professional Code of Conduct, in case you wondered.

I hope that this man does have some sort of criminal sentence.  As justice must be seen to be done.  And that by looking at his path, we can learn how to catch people sooner.  Because this is a regulated profession – there must be some safeguard for the public and accountability.   Let’s not even consider the unregulated business that deals with probate and attorney matters.  Would an unregulated provider of such services face headlines in the papers and such destruction of their career and livelilhood and personal humiliation?

 

[1]  I do not remember my bank or supermarket professing any ethical obligation to me, except in relation to the selling of investments under the FSA code.  I expect my bank and supermarket, to be businesses whose prime objective is to make money out of me:  how they treat me along the way is whether I choose to stay with them or not.   I feel no personal connection to my bank other than that of inertia or convenience – a bottle of Ribena is the same in Tesco as it is in Sainsbury as it is in Asda.  If my favourite item disappears from a shelf, I can choose to go without or find it elsewhere.  I cannot trust that the supply is tailored to my needs, or desires, or that my continued use of a particular bank or store brings greater rewards than shopping around.  But then they never promised that in the first place, did they?

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