Page last updated at 14:18 GMT, Friday, 8 January 2010

Law firm closure in Stockport to affect 4,000 people

Wolstenholmes
All sales due to go ahead have been frozen by the SRA

About 4,000 customers stand to be affected by the sudden and forced closure of a Stockport law firm, a watchdog has said.

Wolstenholmes was closed down and five of its solicitors had their licences suspended amid claims of dishonesty.

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), which is investigating the company, has set up a £3m fund for customers with urgent needs.

A spokesman said they were currently cataloguing all the cases.

Liberal Democrat MP for Cheadle, Mark Hunter, has arranged a meeting with Justice Minister Jack Straw to discuss the aftermath of the firm's closure.

The majority of customers were using the firm to help them purchase a house. Many had complained to the Legal Complaints Commission (LCC), saying they had lost money.

The intervention is not punitive, it is about protecting the public and safeguarding funds
SRA spokesman

One of those suspended, Imran Hussain, has apologised for the current situation and distress caused to customers, but denied any wrongdoing.

Helen Murgatroyd, Bobby Shabbir, Bilal Khawaja and Nasser Ilyas also had their licences suspended just before Christmas.

An SRA spokesman said: "We have set up the fund to help those customers who are just about to buy a house.

"We have had to freeze the money the company as we continue to investigate. We are trying to help customers out as soon as possible.

"The grounds for the intervention were suspected dishonesty and breaches of the Solicitors Accounts and Practice Rules.

"The intervention is not punitive, it is about protecting the public and safeguarding funds.

"For those who fear they have lost money, it will be dealt with by the solicitors' indemnity insurance or the SRA Compensation Fund."



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