SDT: Mark Edward Cottrill
- Application 10839-2011
- Admitted 1989
- Hearing 25 January 2012
- Reasons 5 March 2012
The SDT ordered that the respondent should be suspended from practice as a solicitor for two years to commence on 25 January 2012.
Contrary to rule 1(a), (c), (d) and (e) of the Solicitors Practice Rules 1990 and/or rule 1.02, 1.03, 1.04, and 1.06 of the Solicitors Code of Conduct 2007, the respondent had failed to disclose material information to lender clients; contrary to rule 1(a), (c), (d), and (e) of the rules and/or rule 1.02, 1.03, 1.04, 1.05 and 1.06 of the code, the respondent had failed to act in the best interests of lender clients; the respondent had failed to comply with undertaking(s) contained in certificates of title; contrary to rule 1(a), (c), (d) and (e) of the rules, the respondent had made representations in a letter dated 12 December 2006 to his lender client which were inaccurate and misleading; the respondent had acted contrary to rule 1(a), (c), (d) and (e) of the rules and/or rule 1.02, 1.03, 1.04, 1.05 and 1.06 of the code by virtue of his acting in transactions that were suspicious and bearing the hallmarks of property fraud warned against in the Green Card; and the respondent had acted recklessly.
The SDT had considered carefully the respondent’s letters. While he had made reference to his medical problems, he had not provided any medical evidence in support. The respondent had accepted responsibility for his conduct, he was clearly contrite and had cooperated with the SRA throughout the proceedings. The manner in which he had engaged with the SRA and the disciplinary proceedings did him great credit.
Furthermore, the SDT was mindful that the respondent had been in a legal practice for a lengthy period of time and this was his first appearance before it. However, notwithstanding that, the allegations were very serious and the SDT had found that the respondent had acted recklessly. He had allowed himself to be manipulated by clients and he had neither considered nor acted in the best interests of his lender clients. Furthermore, he had not been alert to the potential problems with the conveyancing transactions he was undertaking, even after his firm was suspended from a lenders panel in September 2009. He should have been particularly aware of the need to proceed with caution especially after that event.
The respondent’s conduct had prevented his lender clients from reaching informed decisions on whether to proceed with mortgage offers and they might have suffered substantial losses as a result. The respondent had made reference in correspondence to being under undue pressure at the material time: however, that did not excuse him from meeting his professional obligations, indeed, at such times it was essential for a solicitor to act in the best interests of all his clients. The SDT considered the appropriate sanction in this case was to suspend the respondent from practice for a period of two years.
The SDT further recommended that at the end of that suspension, the respondent should only be permitted to work in legal practice in employment approved by the SRA. The respondent was ordered to pay costs of £20,000.