herald

Thursday 16 August 2018

'Cover up' claim as Kean waits on court ruling

Solicitor Gerald Kean attempted to "cover up" an alleged failure to properly represent a former client who subsequently made a complaint to the Law Society about him, the High Court has heard.

The claim of a cover-up was made by barrister Remy Farrell SC for the Law Society during Mr Kean's appeal aimed at overturning findings of professional misconduct made against the well-known solicitor by the Society's Solicitor's Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT).

It recommended Mr Kean be fined €20,000 for misconduct. The fine is subject to the approval of the High Court.

Mr Kean disputes the findings and denies misconduct. The Law Society opposes the appeal and argues the SDT's findings should be upheld.

In his submissions to the court, Mr Farrell said Mr Kean's handling of former client Mr Christopher O'Neill's case may have been due to negligence. What was of most concern was the solicitor's attempts over a period of "months and months" to "cover up" such matters.

Counsel said the SDT's findings against Mr Kean were deemed to be "very serious".

The SDT did not hold the findings merited it making a recommendation that Mr Kean be struck off and barred from practising as a solicitor.

The SDT made findings last May in relation to three allegations against Mr Kean but not in relation to several other complaints made by Mr O'Neill over services rendered by the solicitor.

Yesterday, following the conclusion of submissions from both sides, High Court President Nicholas Kearns reserved his decision. The Judge said he will deliver a full written judgment on the appeal at a later date. The appeal centres around complaints made by Mr O'Neill, from Drumsna in Leitrim, to the SDT that Mr Kean knowingly misled him into believing the solicitor had put in a defence to a District Court debt case against him (O'Neill) by Ballycotton Marine Services Ltd in 2005.

That case arose because Mr O'Neill was unhappy with repairs carried out on a boat he owned.

As part of Mr O'Neill's action against the party who did the repairs he engaged the services of Ballycotton Marine Services (BMS). An engineer with BMS was engaged to do an analysis of the repairs Mr O'Neill was unhappy with.

That engineer subsequently declined to give evidence or allow their report be used as part of Mr O'Neill's litigation.

When invoiced, Mr O'Neill refuse to pay Ballycotton. BMS brought proceedings in the District Court against him. Mr O'Neill said he hired Mr Kean to act for him in that case, which he lost. Mr O'Neill said he received a judgment in the post instructing him to pay €1,067.

COMPLAINTS

He then made several complaints against Mr Kean in relation to his representation of him. In the appeal Mr Kean's barrister, Fiona Gallagher BL, said no notice of an intention to defend Mr O'Neill's case was ever submitted by the solicitors firm nor was there ever any intention to do so.

Counsel added the fine was "excessive and disproportionate in all the circumstances".

In reply, Mr Farrell said Mr Kean's denial of complaints made against were "confused, incoherent" and made "very little sense", counsel said.

Counsel denied the fine was excessive and said larger fines than €20,000 had been recommended by the SDT.

hnews@herald.ie

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