A SOLICITOR based in Cwmbran has been struck off the Roll of Solicitors and ordered to pay more than £20,000 costs after admitting to dishonesty and overcharging some of his clients.

Keith Smart, of Keith Smart & Co, admitted overcharging probate clients a total of £168,772.83 while he dealt with the wills and estates of people who had died.

He also admitted eight counts of dishonesty at a Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal.

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) said Smart had been "systematically overcharging clients" over a period of 19 months.

One client was found to have been overcharged by £70,765.

The SRA also accused Smart of failing to "establish and maintain proper accounting systems at the firm" and causing or permitting debits to exist on clients' accounts and not rectifying them. He admitted this.

The SRA alleged that Smart had deliberately misled its Forensic Investigation Officer in interviews after claiming to have sent bills of costs to clients, before admitting under further questioning that he hadn't done so.

Smart admitted this.


In judgement, the tribunal reported: "These were serious acts of dishonesty.

"The overcharging of clients was committed over an extended period of time and which benefitted the Respondent [Smart] to the detriment of the executors and beneficiaries of the probate estates.

"The misleading of the Forensic Investigation Officer was on three separate occasions during the investigation and it was in order to conceal that the Respondent hadn't sent bills of costs to the executor or discussed costs with him.

"The Respondent's misconduct is at the highest level."

Smart was ordered to pay the SRA costs of £20,151.64 in addition to being struck off the Roll of Solicitors.

In mitigation put forward at the tribunal, Smart said: "The firm lost an experienced cashier and there was a catastrophic failure in the firm's accounts systems."

The tribunal said Smart had misled the SRA's Forensic Investigation Officer as he "felt under pressure during an interview", but had "admitted he had lied... when pressed."

According to the report, Smart "apologised profoundly for his actions and wishes to express his sincere apologies to those affected."

Smart also said that he had repaid two of the probate estates the excess costs by May 21, 2018, totalling £77,000.

The other four clients have "yet to be repaid the excessive costs" that they had been charged, said the report.

The mitigation was not endorsed by the SRA.

Keith Smart & Co, on Victoria Street, Cwmbran, was closed down in June 2018.