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21 AUG 2008

Solicitor's Regulation Authority close down family law firm

The Solicitor's Regulation Authority (SRA) has closed down the office of Pauline Lesley Butler, a solicitors firm in Carlisle specialising in family law and clinical negligence.

The SRA confirmed that the practice is the subject of an official investigation following their recent inspection of the firm. Mrs Butler's Practicing Certificate has been suspended while the investigation continues. The grounds for the intervention are serious financial irregularities with her practice.

SRA spokesman Geoffrey Negus said: The SRA closed down her firm on August 19 because we have extremely serious concerns about financial irregularities.

"There is nothing proven yet, but we are allowed to intervene on the grounds of suspicion only.

"We have appointed another firm in Durham to look after the interests of her clients. Clients should not panic.

"If money has gone astray it will either be dealt with by the solicitor's indemnity insurance or if that doesn't work there is the SRA compensation fund. I'm confident that clients will not lose money as a result of this intervention.

"That's one of the guarantees that you get by going to a regulated solicitor."

Calls to Mrs Butler's firm are met with a message directing all enquires to the 'intervention team' at Blackett, Hart and Pratt solicitors in Durham.

According to Mr Negus, there are generally about fifty SRA interventions on average per year for a whole range of reasons including abandonment and solicitors becoming too ill to practice, although interventions to do with dishonesty are less common. The full facts of this case will not come out until any tribunal hearing.

A Cumbria business directory lists Mrs Butler's practice has having been established in 1993 and she was a member of the Law Society Family Panel.

In August last year, Mrs Butler was badly injured after her son-in-law, Simon Moffat, 28, struck her down with a van, after the marriage to her daughter broke down. In February Mr Moffat pleaded guilty before Lancaster Crown Court to attempting to cause grievous bodily harm and common assault to Mrs Butler and was sentenced to 44 months in prison and disqualified from driving for two years. Mr Moffat also admitted kicking Mrs Butler in the leg after driving into her.

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