Press release

Rogue retired solicitor with £1m debts is handed 15 year bankruptcy restriction for misappropriating clients’ funds

Exeter County Court has ordered that Simon Michael Armitage, a retired solicitor, be subject to a 15 year Bankruptcy Restriction Order for misappropriating funds from his clients’ accounts, overcharging clients and falsifying his records to cover up his actions.

Mr Armitage’s restriction follows an investigation by the Insolvency Service.

Mr Armitage (65) is therefore bound by the restrictions set out in insolvency law that a bankrupt is subject to until they are discharged from bankruptcy – normally 12 months – until 2030. In addition, he cannot manage or control a limited company during this period without leave of the court.

The investigation found Mr Armitage’s misappropriations occurred over the course of four years between 2009 and 2013.

The investigation also found that between July 2009 and December 2013, Mr Armitage transferred money from his client’s accounts to himself, his creditors and other clients from whose accounts he had previously misappropriated funds. The majority of the misappropriations occurred in probate estates and the victims were most often the recently bereaved beneficiaries. He falsified his ledgers and cheque books to cover up what he had done.

In addition to the misappropriated funds, he owed private lenders, banks, trade suppliers, government departments and credit companies at the date of his bankruptcy order.

His actions came to light as a result of a complaint after he joined another law firm.

Commenting on the restriction, Catherine Newell, Assistant Official Receiver, said

Mr Armitage was in a position of trust and was relied on by his clients.

The seriousness of Mr Armitage’s conduct warrants the maximum restriction and sends a clear message to others in his position on the consequences for abusing such a position of trust: they will be investigated by the Insolvency Service and removed from the business environment for a significant period of time.

On 21 February 2014, Mr Armitage petitioned successfully for his own bankruptcy and a Bankruptcy Order was made against him. His total debts currently stand at £1.01 million.

Mr Armitage has already appeared at a preliminary hearing in Exeter Crown Court and has been charged with ten offences of fraud and one of forgery. The case has been adjourned until July 2015.

Notes to editors

The bankruptcy order was made on 21 February 2014, following Mr Armitage’s own petition to the court on the same day.

Simon Michael Armitage’s date of birth is 23 November 1949.

The Insolvency Service administers the insolvency regime, investigating all compulsory liquidations and individual insolvencies (bankruptcies) through the Official Receiver to establish why they became insolvent. It may also use powers under the Companies Act 1985 to conduct confidential fact-finding investigations into the activities of live limited companies in the UK. In addition, the agency authorises and regulates the insolvency profession, deals with disqualification of directors in corporate failures, assesses and pays statutory entitlement to redundancy payments when an employer cannot or will not pay employees, provides banking and investment services for bankruptcy and liquidation estate funds and advises ministers and other government departments on insolvency law and practice. Further information about the work of the Insolvency Service, and how to complain about financial misconduct, is available.

If the Official Receiver considers that the conduct of a bankrupt has been dishonest or blameworthy in some other way, she will report the facts to court and ask for a Bankruptcy Restriction Order (BRO) to be made. The court will consider the report and any other evidence put before it, and will decide whether it should make a BRO. If it does, the bankrupt will be subject to certain restrictions for the period stated in the order. The court may fix a period from two to fifteen years.