Bogus solicitor who worked on High Court case could face prison

Tristan Kirk
Angella Johnson taped hours of evidence and legal argument during the Southwark crown court case of Gurgana Gueorguieva, who was jailed for nine-and-a-half years for a violent raid on the home of filmmaker Michael Winner's widow (file image): Yui Mok/PA

A man who pretended to be a qualified and experienced solicitor as he represented clients at the High Court is facing a possible jail sentence.

Richard Lipscombe, 44, was hired by a construction firm to be its legal representative in a civil dispute, and posed as a genuine solicitor before a judge.

He suggested in paperwork that he was a “grade A fee earner”, putting him in the top professional bracket with at least eight years’ litigation experience.

At Southwark crown court on Friday, Lipscombe pleaded guilty to acting as a solicitor when unqualified and carrying on a reserved legal activity when not entitled.

Judge Christopher Hehir warned: “These offences are serious, they do carry sentences of imprisonment. All sentencing options including prison will be available to the court.”

The maximum sentence is two years.

Lipscombe appeared via videolink from Sheffield, where he lives, and represented himself at the plea hearing, saying he had parted with his legal team because of a dispute over fees and “certain instructions not being carried out”.

He said he would seek new lawyers for a sentencing hearing on March 6, which he was ordered to attend.

Lipscombe admitted posing as a solicitor between August 2015 and July 2016, and appearing in High Court litigation involving Clapham-based Build Team Holborn between April 29 and May 17, 2016.

At a 2016 hearing he introduced himself to his opponent as a solicitor, and did not correct the claim when it was repeated to the judge in open court.

He had worked as a paralegal but in August 2015, amid concerns about his activities, the Solicitors Regulation Authority issued an order banning law firms from employing him.

Despite that ruling, Lipscombe set up RN-Law in February 2016, with an address in Holborn and himself as the sole director. Build Team Holborn reported him to the SRA over concerns about the way its case had been handled.

Lipscombe originally denied all the charges, brought under an SRA private prosecution, but pleaded guilty after an application to dismiss the case failed. Prosecutor Katherine Lloyd said the SRA was seeking to recoup £52,800 in costs.

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