SDT: Alexander David Winterton and Michael Miller
The SDT ordered that the first defendant (admitted 1999), and the second defendant (admitted 1998), both of London SE16, should each be struck off the roll.
- Application 10481-2010
- Hearing 14 October 2010
- Reasons 29 November 2010
The respondents had failed to deal with the investigation officers of the Solicitors Regulation Authority in an open, prompt and cooperative way, in breach of rules 20.05 and 20.08 of the Solicitors Code of Conduct 2007; they had failed to lodge accountant’s reports for the years ended 31 May 2008 and 31 May 2009, such reports being due respectively by 30 November 2008 and 30 November 2009; they had overcharged a client, in breach of rules 1.02 and 1.06 of code; and they had failed to comply promptly or at all with court orders dated 16 July 2009, 4 August 2009, and 9 September 2009.
The first respondent alone had deliberately and dishonestly misled the SRA as to whether the firm held client monies; and he had contacted a third party directly, in breach of rule 10.04 of the code. Further, both respondents had failed to comply with an order to pay compensation made by an adjudicator of the SRA, in breach of rules 1.02 and 1.06 of the code; and they had acted in a situation where there was a conflict of interest, or a significant risk of a conflict of interest, between clients of the firm, in breach of rules 3.01 and rule 4.03. The SDT found that the behaviour of both respondents towards their regulatory body, their clients, and their professional colleagues had been disgraceful. The respondents had demonstrated a blatant disregard for the Solicitors Code of Conduct, which existed to protect the public and the good name of the profession. The respondents’ conduct reflected badly on the solicitors’ profession and was unacceptable. Neither respondent had demonstrated any remorse for his behaviour. The SDT had found that the first respondent had behaved dishonestly in respect of one allegation, and had found seven other allegations against him proved. He was not fit to practise as a solicitor. The SDT recognised that there had been no allegation of dishonesty against the second respondent. However, he had faced six serious allegations, all of which the SDT had found proved. Lapses from the required high standard might take different forms and be of varying degrees. The conduct of the second respondent had fallen well below the required high standards of integrity, probity and trustworthiness. His lapses were very serious indeed in a member of a profession whose reputation depended upon trust. A striking-off order would not necessarily follow where there was no proven allegation of dishonesty, but it might follow. The second respondent had been fully implicated in the joint allegation that the respondents had substantially overcharged a client and that they had failed to comply with court and adjudication orders. The second respondent had been a key participant in the events leading to the allegation that the respondents had acted for clients where there was a conflict of interest. The second respondent had provided no explanation or shown any remorse for his conduct.
In all the circumstances, the SDT did not consider that it was appropriate merely to suspend the second respondent, either for a specified period of time or indefinitely. The second respondent had demonstrated by his conduct jointly with the first respondent that he was not fit to practise as a solicitor. The respondents were ordered to pay costs of £37,000, on the basis of joint and several liability.