Agricultural lawyer accused of misconduct has hearing adjourned

A leading agricultural lawyer facing prosecution by the Solicitors Regulation Authority had his case adjourned on Tuesday (27 October).

Peter Rhys Williams faces allegations of misconduct relating to his time when he worked at Wilsons Solicitors in Wiltshire.

He did not appear at Tuesday’s preliminary hearing into the case, held at the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal in central London.

See also: Leading agricultural solicitor to face disciplinary tribunal

The case was adjourned for preparation of documents and a full preliminary hearing to be held on or after 1 February 2016.

The allegations against Mr Williams, which are unproven, include that he:

  • Failed to act with integrity
  • Failed to act in the best interests of his client
  • Failed to behave in a way that maintained the trust the public placed in him and in the provision of legal services
  • Took unfair advantage of third parties in his professional capacity.

Marianne Butler, a barrister representing the SRA, outlined brief details of the case against him.

She told the tribunal that the prosecution case centred on the proposed sale of a property, known as Park House, which was going to be sold for £2.2m and then was later going to be sold to a third party for £3.9m.

Miss Butler said Mr Williams denied the allegations.

“His case, in a nutshell, was that the property was being sold at its market value and that he was at all times being up front and recorded everything in the proper way,” Miss Butler added.

She said Wilsons Solicitors made the complaint against Mr Williams in March 2013 after he had left the company.

“(Wilsons) uncovered evidence of what they believe to be significant wrongdoing and made the complaint,” she added.

Miss Butler said Mr Williams continues to deny all allegations against him.

Lawyers representing Mr Williams did not make any pronouncements on his behalf during the hearing.

In a statement sent to Farmers Weekly, Wilsons Solicitors said: “It should be made clear that the matters at the centre of this case were identified by Wilsons whilst reviewing the work of Mr Williams.

“Our concerns over this were immediately reported directly to the Solicitors Regulation Authority. 

“Mr Williams was a partner of Wilsons for just over a year and his membership was terminated by a vote by his colleagues.”

Currently, Mr Williams is head of the agriculture team at Devon-based Michelmores Solicitors, having joined the company in October 2012.

He is the author of the definitive textbook on the law of agricultural holdings.

Simon Barnett, a partner at Michelmores, said: “The complaint was made by the managing partner of Peter’s previous firm Wilsons during the course of litigation between Peter Williams and Wilsons in 2013.”

He added: “Peter is vigorously defending the charges, and we are confident that he will be fully exonerated from any wrongdoing.

“He has the full support of Michelmores, and we hope that this matter will be resolved very swiftly.

“No further comment will be made until the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal concludes its consideration of the complaint.”

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