Andrew Clinch handled dozens of PI claims and settled invoices with claims farmers to the sum of £993,000 in exchange for claimant details, the Law Gazette reports

A personal injury solicitor has been suspended and ordered to pay £50,000 in costs after admitting to a tribunal that he paid unlawful referral fees.

Andrew Clinch, 37, who ran his own company in Manchester, admitted to handling dozens of PI claims where the apparent victims of road traffic accidents either hadn’t signed the relevant paperwork or showed that they did not want to pursue the claim.

The payment of referral fees was banned in April 2013, but Clinch continued a relationship with a claims management company.

Between August 2013 and May 2014, Clinch Solicitors settled invoices with the claims handler for almost £993,000 in exchange for claimant details.

Clinch’s father, who worked for the same company, admitted to SRA Investigators that the business relied upon the claims provided through the scam to stay afloat.

Some of the cases saw Clinch’s firm settling claims with insurers, even after the alleged victim had made them aware that they did not want to pursue.

Also, some people made complaints that they had been cold-called, and some even accused Clinch of charging for legal fees which were never incurred. They even threatened an elderly victim with legal action if they did not pay it.

At the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal, Clinch said he had made a ‘genuine and honest mistake,’ and asked for the suspension, which he has been subject to since May 2017, be lifted.

“It is very serious, and I want to apologise for my failings and mistakes. There has been a lot of distress caused to clients. It is clear claims have been initiated when they shouldn’t have been, and it is clear clients have received bills when they shouldn’t have done. I should have dealt with the complaints personally.”

The SRA stressed that dishonesty was not alleged in any of the charges but said the admitted lack of integrity was still worthy of being treated seriously.

Clinch said he intends to retrain in another area of law and does not intend to run his own firm again.