Reports reach the High Court that after clients’ solicitor complaints against Declan O’Callaghan, he has lodged €395,000 to the client account of his former firm. Last July, the solicitor agreed to various orders. These included not practising as a solicitor while waiting for the outcome of an investigation into his conduct by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT).
Mr O’Callaghan was also to pay by 10 September €350,000 from his personal account to the client account of Kilraine O’Callaghan. This was to be followed by the ending of his involvement with that firm as well as make good any additional deficit occurring after certain identified client files are finalised.
When the solicitor case returned on a particular Monday some months ago, Mr Justice Peter Kelly, the president of the High Court was informed that Declan O’Callaghan had paid €395,000 and Mr Steen had been meeting with customers to close out files.
The judge inquired why a delay was there in advancing wardship proceedings that were targeted to protect the substantial estate of a bereaved child. This is the case that apparently affects Declan O’Callaghan. There are concerns about the solicitor involved fee from a bereaved child’s estate.
An independent solicitor’s report raised concerns, that involved the solicitor withdrawing substantial fees from the estate of a bereaved child. This, in turn, influenced the society which earlier this year initiated its application for suspension of solicitor O’Callaghan.
The child’s mother on that particular Monday expressed her concerns about wardship where the judge agreed that she could air is the concerns since she had a full opportunity. The judge explained that the wardship aim was to protect the assets of the child.
Previously, the court was told that Declan O’Callaghan had reimbursed €344,000 including VAT, withdrawn by him from a child’s estate. The solicitor agreed the money was excessive in the midst of solicitor complaints by the society. The funds, however, remain lodged in a controlled account waiting for further court order.
The bereaved child’s account has over €736,000. Mr O’Callaghan had time offered by the court to fully explain his deduction of some €101,000 from a €396,000 estate meant for a widowed client and her 3 children. The fees he and the widow have since agreed on is only €28,000.
According to a report by the widow, the court previously heard that the independent solicitor, Mr O’Callaghan’s practice had expressed his opinion that the charged fees concerning the child’s estate had no relation to the work done on behalf of the estate to date. He further expressed the opinion that no dishonesty was involved. While he accepts that the fees were excessive, he maintains that he always conducted himself honestly.
Last March, the Society’s Regulation of Practice Committee referred Declan O’Callaghan to the SDT for an inquiry into his conduct. having considered the reports into the practice of the solicitor. The Committee also authorised the Society to apply for an order to suspend the solicitor from practice pending the inquiry.