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Solicitor lodged clients' money to office account

Added on September 14, 2009

19 July 2009 By Kieron Wood

A Dublin solicitor who was paid nearly e 2 million in costs by the Residential Institutions Redress Board has been fined €15,000 for professional misconduct.

Peter Gerard McDonnell of Fitzwilliam Hall, Fitzwilliam Place, Dublin 2, was also censured by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal.

The tribunal found that McDonnell,54, had lodged clients' money to his office account in 2006,lea ding to a €300,000 deficit on clients' accounts.

He also wrote cheques to barristers and engineers on office accounts, but did not release the cheques for payment, so the deductions were not obvious when the accounts were examined. He then put letters on clients' files giving the impression that the money had been paid. McDonnell was also found guilty of breaching solicitors' accounting regulations.

McDonnell's website says that he runs ''one of the most well known plaintiff personal injury law firms in the country''.

The high-profile solicitor - originally from Monaghan - was described by one newspaper as ''not your typical Irish solicitor'', with ''designer suits, sleek hair and flamboyant legal style''.

He told a reporter: ''You work. You make money. You spend it. A lot of people don't know how to make money and aren't able to spend it. I'm very happy to make it and spend it." In 1997,McDonnell became the first Irish solicitor to issue proceedings against the tobacco industry.

He took on 206 smoker clients, including one-time snooker ace Alex Higgins.

In 2006,McDonnell's firm made 120 applications to the Residential Institutions Redress Board, for which he was paid costs of €1,902,401.

The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal ordered McDonnell to pay €15,000 to the compensation fund, plus the Law Society's costs in bringing the complaint.

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