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Ultimate responsibility was Lynn’s – solicitor
Pic: RollingNews.ie

28 Nov 2023 / courts Print

Ultimate responsibility was Lynn’s – solicitor

A former solicitor from Michael Lynn's practice has repeatedly denied to his trial that she was ever involved in conveyancing in the firm.

Mr Lynn (55), of Millbrook Court, Redcross, Co Wicklow, is on trial at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court accused of the theft of around €27 million from seven financial institutions. He has pleaded not guilty to 21 counts of theft in Dublin between 23 October 2006 and 20 April 2007.

It is the prosecution’s case that Lynn (pictured) obtained multiple mortgages on the same properties, in a situation where banks were unaware that other institutions were also providing finance.

Internal emails

Fiona McAleenan returned to the stand for a third day yesterday (27 November) to continue being cross-examined by Paul Comiskey O'Keeffe BL, defending Lynn.

McAleenan was brought through a number of internal emails from Michael Lynn & Co Solicitors at that time, along with office documents and phone messages.

The court was shown internal emails that Comiskey O'Keeffe said showed that McAleenan was being sent weekly conveyancing reports. McAleenan replied that she didn't remember getting these, and that she probably didn't pay any attention to them.

The court heard that the Law Society had carried out a random audit of the practice in 2006. Comiskey O'Keeffe suggested to McAleenan that, as a solicitor, she had a “professional obligation and legal obligation in relation to the conduct of the files and client-ledger cards”.

‘Lynn was principal solicitor’

McAleenan replied that she did not employ staff in the practice and that Lynn was the principal of the practice. “The ultimate responsibility was his,” she said. “I did my work properly in the practice.”

She added that no issues were raised with her litigation files. “As I have said countless times, Michael Lynn was the principal solicitor in the practice – a conveyancing solicitor,” she stated.

Comiskey O'Keeffe put it to McAleenan that she was being “completely disingenuous” in relation to the matter.

She said that she took “grave exception” to this term.

Defence counsel also showed the court internal documents from Michael Lynn & Co Solicitors, in which one trainee solicitor stated that McAleenan had requested that client-ledger cards be printed out for every client in the office.

McAleenan said that she did not accept that she had carried out a review of all the clients when she was in the practice. She said that the trainee solicitor was probably asked to print out all the client-ledger cards by “someone” and then discussed it with her.

Management of files

The court was also shown a memo in March 2007 from Lynn to McAleenan, entitled 'management of all files', in which he asked her to work with a colleague to take over the management of all files. “We need to carry out full diligence on this to ensure we are covered properly by professional-indemnity insurance,” Lynn wrote in the memo.

Responding to this memo, McAleenan said that she did not carry out an audit of all the files.

An email dated May 2007 from another solicitor in the firm stated that McAleenan would take control of all litigation matters: “Fiona will hand over any conveyancing files she is currently working on.”

McAleenan said that the solicitor was perhaps referring to the fact she was involved in litigation issues relating to some conveyancing files. She told the court a number of times that she was not involved in conveyancing in the firm.

“We keep finding documentary evidence that seems to constitute it,” Comiskey O'Keeffe said.

“I continue to say I was not involved in conveyancing, and the people who were can be called to court to give evidence of that themselves,” McAleenan replied.

Negotiations

The court was also shown minutes from a February 2007 meeting between Lynn, McAleenan and other people described by defence counsel as “high-level” employees in the practice.

In the meeting, Lynn was recorded as saying: “From now on, we should have very clear systems that Fiona sees. I know you trust me, Fiona, but trust is also much easier if it is on the basis of transparency, not that there was anything being hidden from you.”

Comiskey O'Keeffe put it to McAleenan that this showed that she was a partner in the practice. The court heard that the High Court later found that she was “holding herself out” as partner.

McAleenan said that she was in negotiations to become a partner, but that before she left the practice, she decided not to become a partner at that time, on the advice of another person.

‘Mindset’

In the same meeting in February 2007, the court heard that Lynn said that he would not put his name at the top of an organisational chart and “we should put Fiona on top there”. McAleenan agreed.

Comiskey O'Keeffe said that this conversation showed that McAleenan was “without doubt” accepting that she was a partner.

“That was my mindset,” McAleenan replied. “That's what I thought was going to happen.”

The trial continues before Judge Martin Nolan and the jury.

Isabel Hayes
Isabel Hayes
Isabel Hayes is a court reporter with CCC Nuacht Teoranta