SDT: Malik Mohammed Nazeer and Malik Mohammed Saleem
- Application 10773-2011
- Hearing 18 January 2012
- Reasons 6 February 2012
After amendment and withdrawal of certain allegations, the second respondent no longer faced any allegations. The SDT ordered that the first respondent (admitted 1997) should pay a fine of £5,000.
Contrary to rule 1(d) of the Solicitors Practice Rules 1999, in applications for professional indemnity insurance the first respondent had failed to ensure that complete and accurate information was provided for the years: (i) 2005/2006; (ii) 2006/2007; (iii) 2007/2008; and, contrary to rule 1.06 of the Solicitors Code of Conduct 2007, in applications for professional indemnity insurance he had failed to ensure that complete and accurate information was provided for the years:(i) 2008/2009; (ii) 2009/2010. The SDT noted that the case as presented in the course of the hearing was rather different to that which had been anticipated when the members read the applicant’s bundle, prior to receipt of the respondents’ bundle of documents.
A number of significant allegations had been withdrawn in the light of the respondents’ evidence and the only matter which remained was the admitted allegation in relation to inaccurate and incomplete professional indemnity proposal forms. The completion of professional indemnity proposal forms was a matter of great importance. Solicitors should be able to read forms carefully and complete them accurately.
The first respondent had accepted the responsibility in his firm for dealing with professional indemnity insurance and should have turned his mind to the need to give full and frank disclosure. It was particularly important that solicitors should give complete and accurate information in view of the fact that insurers could not avoid the insurance contract save in very limited circumstances eg where there was deliberate dishonesty in completion of the proposal form.
The SDT accepted that the first respondent had not been ‘opportunistic’ in concealing information so as to keep his firm’s insurance premiums low. However, he had been misguided and careless and could be criticised for not having applied his mind with more care to what was required. The SDT accepted that the first respondent was of good character. The references provided on his behalf showed that he was a competent and proficient solicitor, who was well regarded. The fact that his practice appeared to thrive supported the proposition that the first respondent and his partner were professionally competent.
The first respondent had let himself down in the way he had completed the professional indemnity insurance proposal forms over a period of five years. It was a serious matter where a sanction was appropriate and a reprimand was insufficient. In all of the circumstances, in order to mark the seriousness of the breaches which had occurred, and bearing in mind the period of time over which the breaches had subsisted, the appropriate sanction was a fine of £5,000. While it was not relevant to the issue of sanction the SDT wished to record its concern that the respondents’ position in the present case had not been made clear to the applicant at an earlier stage.
The nature of the case the SDT was considering had changed, but only when the respondents’ bundle had been served/received just two days before the hearing. That had clearly placed the applicant’s solicitor in some difficulty in having to review the allegations. The SDT was grateful at least that it had received the papers before the hearing, which was not always the case. It did not intend to criticise the lawyers involved, who had received late instructions.
However, the SDT was often frustrated by late delivery of papers, particularly from respondents, which created difficulties for the SDT and the other party. All of that being said, however, the SDT was grateful to the parties for the way in which the case had been presented and the key issues addressed in the course of the hearing.
The first respondent was ordered to pay costs of £14,000.