A Jersey Advocate was struck off his professional register for causing "excessive" delays in legal proceedings and failing to pass on an email to his client because it contained criticism of him.
Following a disciplinary hearing brought by the Attorney General to the Royal Court, Andrew Begg’s name was removed from the roll of Advocates with immediate effect in July.
A judgment published this week has now explained the reasons behind the Royal Court's decision.
Mr Begg had represented a widow whose husband had died without making a will. The husband also had siblings, so negotiations took place around how his estate should be shared, with law firm BCR representing the siblings.
The Royal Court found that delays caused by Mr Begg when dealing with his case were excessive and amounted to misconduct; he had deliberately failed to pass on an email to his client because it contained criticism of him; and he had removed the date and a word – “inordinate” – from an email because they implied criticism of him or would have given rise to concerns by his client as to the delay in passing it on.
This, the court concluded, amounted to dishonesty.
Mr Begg accepted that his delays in responding and altering the words in an email amounted to misconduct and demonstrated a lack of integrity, but it was dishonest.
He did not accept that failing to forward the open email was misconduct in any way.
However, after hearing evidence, including from Mr Begg, his client and his secretary, the Court found against him, concluding that his explanations for his conduct – including pressures in his personal and professional life, and an office move – were “difficult to accept” and “incredible”.
The Bailiff, Sir Timothy Le Cocq, who was sitting with Jurats Jerry Ramsden, Kim Averty, Gareth Hughes, Karen Le Cornu and David Le Heuzé, said: “The delays... which were attributable to Advocate Begg were excessive, amounted to misconduct, and that misconduct was moderately serious.
“With regard to the failure to forward the open email of 27 March 2019, we note that the email began with a preliminary paragraph which pointed to BCR’s clients’ exasperation at the delays in answering their queries and contained a phrase suggesting that BCR’s clients were close to reporting Advocate Begg to the Law Society for the delays.
“In our judgment, Advocate Begg’s failure to pass this email on was clearly because it contained criticism of him and was to avoid embarrassment with or criticism from his client.
“It was a deliberate withholding of information which had it been provided might have caused his client to take different actions. It was not in her best interests; it was deliberate, and in the context, dishonest.
The Court added: “With regard to the removal of the words ‘inordinate’ and the date from the email without prejudice on the same day, in our judgment those details were removed because they implied criticism of Advocate Begg or would have given rise to concerns by his client as to the delay in passing the email on, and were accordingly done to avoid embarrassment and difficulties with his client, were not in her best interests, were knowing and deliberate and were in the circumstances dishonest.”
In ordering the Attorney General to strike Mr Begg off the roll of Advocates, it noted: “Advocate Begg does not resist these conclusions and we think rightly so.
“Other than in exceptional circumstances a finding of dishonesty will be met with striking off. We note that Advocate Begg has already taken steps to enable the transfer of his practice to other firms.”
In September 2020, Mr Begg was referred by the Royal Court for a review of his conduct by the Law Society, following a case where he reportedly "wholly failed to engage" to a series of e-mails despite being constantly chased.
Master of the Royal Court, Matthew Thompson, was also critical of Mr Begg's conduct in a recent judgment in which Mr Begg's client, UK property company ECI Limited, was ordered to pay back a £200,000 loan it took out from Acorn Finance.
In 2014, he was fined £15,000 by the Royal Court, together with an order that he pay £5,000 towards the costs of the Attorney General, after trying to charge a client six times the value of a disputed loan.
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