A SOLICITOR at a Kidderminster law firm who was fined £32,000 for using client money to keep his business afloat has had an appeal dismissed in the High Court.

Richard Prescott, of Prescotts Solicitors in Church Street, was found to have used clients' money intended for third parties for his own business purposes during a disciplinary tribunal in November.

The tribunal heard that Mr Prescott borrowed at least £44,000 from a client's interim damages without specifying the terms of the loan, transferred £2,000 from a client's residual estate funds without written notification, and provided loans to a client which constituted a conflict of interest.

A forensic inspection of the firm in November 2016 found a cash shortage in the client bank account caused by incorrect transfers to the office's account totalling nearly £150,000 - placing Mr Prescott in breach of the SRA's Account Rules.

He was struck off the Roll of Solicitors and ordered to pay costs of £32,000.

While Mr Prescott did not challenge the tribunal's finding that he acted without integrity in his professional activities, he appealed against allegations that his conduct had been dishonest.

In this appeal, Mr Prescott argued that each allegation of dishonesty should have been listed separately, investigated, put to him, and then separately determined.

He said the Solicitors Regulation Authority had instead relied upon imprecise, wider allegations.

But Judge Peter Richard Lane said this did not show the tribunal was wrong to find dishonesty proven to the criminal standard.

He said the fact Mr Prescott's company was in financial difficulties at the time supported the allegations of dishonesty.

Judge Lane concluded: "The unchallenged background [to the case] showed that the appellant had a practice of not paying counsel and other professionals and of putting monies properly due to them into the firm's client account, where it was used to help run the appellant's financially struggling firm.

"It was against that background that the specific allegations of dishonesty fell to be addressed.

"The appellant had a motive for behaving as he did, which was relevant in determining if his behaviour was dishonest."

The appeal was dismissed.