Former Worthing councillor in legal practice ban

A FORMER Worthing borough councillor, Mark O’Keeffe, has been barred from all legal practice, following a decision by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).

Mr O’Keeffe, who was previously a Conservative councillor for Castle ward, in 2000-2002, was banned after the SRA had considered a report which stated that Mr O’Keeffe was employed as a process server by a number of solicitors firms.

The report continued: “Whilst employed by a process server, Mr O’Keefe came into possession of a large number of documents relating to those firms and their clients, some of which would have contained private and confidential information in relation to those clients. Mr O’Keefe also came into possession of papers belonging to the Crown Prosecution Service.

“In December, 2011, Mr O’Keefe was evicted from a rented property at 4 Forest Barn Mews, Castle Goring. Upon leaving the property, Mr O’Keefe left behind six bags of papers relating to clients of several firms of solicitors which were abandoned in a car port at the property. The documents were retained by the landlord of the property and handed over to the SRA in or around January 2012.

“In amongst the documents handed to the SRA was a file of papers which contained a letter to the court manager at Worthing Crown Court, purporting to be from a firm of solicitors, Baker & Co. During an investigation of this matter, it was established that this letter had not been produced by Baker & Co and Mr O’Keefe confirmed that he had, in fact, prepared the letter himself on behalf of an individual who he had chosen to represent in court proceedings, even though he was not a solicitor.

“Mr O’Keefe acknowledged that he had not acted appropriately in relation to the production of the letter and that he had acted ‘naively’ in relation to the abandonment of the documents.”

The SRA adjudicator, Nigel Butcher, said he found that Mr O’Keeffe, who was not a solicitor, had “in the society’s opinion, occasioned or been a party to, with or without the connivance of a solicitor, an act or default in relation to a legal practice which involved conduct on his part of such a nature that in the society’s opinion it would be undesirable for him to be involved in a legal practice in one or more of the ways mentioned in the Solicitors Act 1974 (as amended).”

The order included that, from August 15, 2012: “No solicitor shall employ or remunerate him in connection with his practice as a solicitor; and no employee of a solicitor shall employ or remunerate him in connection with the solicitor’s practice.

The order is subject to a statutory right of review to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal.