There have been a number of reported cases over the years highlighting failures when Statements of Truth have been signed on behalf of a client, but it is always worth giving a word of caution to practitioners, this time following a disciplinary action from the SDT.
An experienced solicitor, who was admitted to the roll in 1983, used old signatures on a revised Particulars of Claim. The Tribunal heard that the solicitor has issued proceedings for a claim following an RTA, but with a document that he had manually altered.
The claim was originally on behalf of three Claimant’s and each had signed a Statement of Truth, sent to the Defendant’s solicitor in June 2013. However, after one of the Claimants withdrew, new proceedings were issued in October 2013. But the solicitor had amended the Particulars of Claim, using Tipp-Ex and hand writing other changes to the Statement of Truth.
The Defendant’s applied to strike the claims out on the basis that the new Particulars of Claim were not properly signed by the Claimants. That application was resisted on the basis that it was ‘quite common’ for signatures to be taken at an early stage and used later on, also claiming that consent had been given by the Claimants’ to amend the Particulars.
The case was struck out and the Claimant’s solicitor was reported to the Solicitors Regulation Authority.
The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal found that he had attempted to mislead the Court and Defendant into believing the contents of the Particulars had in fact been verified by the Claimants when that was not the case.
Jackson was fined £7,000 and also had to pay costs.
Outside the coverage of an After the Event insurance policy
A cautionary tale then as one must also remember that the Claimants actions were Struck Out and that would no doubt have led to a claim against the firms Professional Indemnity insurer as an After the Event insurance provider would be unlikely to cover such a case.
Anyone signing a statement of truth on behalf of a client should read Practice Direction 22 (https://www.justice.gov.uk/courts/procedure-rules/civil/rules/part22/pd_part22) periodically. In relation to the lawyer signing the statement of truth the rules are clear so do make sure that you can and do comply, entirely, with the Practice Direction.