Can a non-solicitor Deputy charge solicitor fees?

In the recent case of Riddle v Public Guardian [2021] EWCOP 38, an application was made for Permission to Appeal from two judgments of HHJ Hilder, dated 11 August 2020 and 4 September 2020, which are reported as The Public Guardian v Andrew Riddle (No1 and No2) [2020] EWCOP 41.

By way of background, Mr Riddle is Managing Director of Professional Deputies, offering services in acting as appointee, Deputy, or Attorney, and assisting applicants in making applications to the Court. However, he is not a qualified solicitor. The prior hearings concerned, amongst other factors, whether the professional Deputy should be authorised to charge fees at a solicitors’ rate, or whether their charges could fall somewhere in between the public authority and solicitor rates. In addition, whether a professional Deputy could be remunerated at a higher rate than public authority Deputies was also considered, and the conclusion of the Court was that they could not.

The application for permission to appeal was originally rejected on the papers, however a renewed oral application was allowed. There were three grounds of appeal (with Ground 1 being split into two parts):

  • That the Judge erred in her general conclusions that Mr Riddle should not be afforded a specific rate
  • That the estates of Protected Parties would commonly be dealt with by Solicitors, and that inadequate weight was placed on the benefit to P of having a professional Deputy
  • That the Judge erred in her refusal to grant Mr Riddle’s application for relief from liability for past charging
  • That the Judge erred in refusing the application made for the Public Guardian to pay Mr Riddle’s costs associated with responding to the revocation application (save for the costs associated with Mr Riddle paying his legal fees from the estates of Protected Parties and restoring the estates in this regard)

On consideration of the grounds and the submissions made by both parties, it was decided that the arguments presented had no reasonable prospect of success and were bound to fail. As a result of the above, permission to appeal on the presented grounds was refused, affirmed as per an Order dated 19 March 2021.

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