Lawyer suspended after cheating client with dementia

by |
A former Singapore lawyer practising in Australia has been suspended by a Melbourne tribunal for five months over the illegal billing of $217, 000 in fees to a woman with dementia.
 
Peter Ng admitted to three charges of professional misconduct last week, including failing to declare he was the subject of a probe by the Victorian Legal Services Commissioner when he applied for retrospective approval for the fees and commission, Singapore Law Watch reported.
 
“The serious nature of the offences indicate a personal flaw which must be addressed, thereby giving greater weight to personal deterrence,” said Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal member Gerard Butcher.
 
“The need for personal deterrence is reinforced by the question of whether [he] has shown true remorse.”
 
Ng, who was granted power of attorney to manage the affairs of Gillian Littledyke back in 2007, charged $44,505 in legal fees, far higher than the agreed amount of between $5000 and $6000 per year.
 
Littledyke was diagnosed with dementia in 2009 and after finding this out in 2012, decided to charge a commission of an establishment fee, annual fees and an ‘additional service fee’.  The commission fee was on top of the professional fees.
 
The fees were computed as a percentage of the annual value of Littledyke’s assets, a minimium of $3,000 in addition to the service fee of $360 per hour.  Ng charged a total of $115,294 in fees or costs and $99,848 in commission in 2013 and 2014.
 
Ng pleaded guilty and repaid the commission, but Butcher said that given he had no entitlement to it in the first place, “the submission has to indicate a lack of remorse”.
 
The fees were beyond the sums expressly authorized by the client and the commission was not authorized, the tribunal found.
 
The tribunal ordered the suspension to run from Sept 1 to Jan 31 next year and ordered him to pay $8,500 in costs.
 

Australasian Lawyer forum is the place for positive industry interaction and welcomes your professional and informed opinion.

Name (required)
Comment (required)
By submitting, I agree to the Terms & Conditions