SDT: Nathaniel Bertrand Felton
- Application 10689-2012
- Admitted 1997
- Hearing 31 January 2012
- Reasons 12 March 2012
The SDT ordered that the respondent should be suspended from practice as a solicitor for an indefinite period to commence on 31 January 2012.
The respondent had failed to co-operate with the SRA in the course of its investigations as defined in rule 20.5(1) of the Solicitors Code of Conduct 2007; he had failed to comply with a decision of an adjudicator of the SRA made on 23 August 2010, thus diminishing the trust that the public placed in the profession, contrary to rule 1.06 of the code; he had failed to register his client’s legal title to a property in which he acted for the purchaser and had therefore failed to act in the best interests of his client, contrary to rule 1.04 of the code; by failing to register his client’s interest in the property, he had failed to provide a good standard of service to his client, contrary to rule 1.05 of the code; and he had failed to respond to letters from the SRA dated 25 January 2011 and 17 February 2011 and had therefore failed to deal with the SRA in an open, prompt and co-operative way, contrary to rule 20.05 of the code.
The SDT was concerned that although individually, the five allegations were not of the most serious kind, the respondent’s course ofconduct overall was serious. He had failed to co-operate with the SRA on a number of occasions, he had failed to comply with an adjudicator’s decision, and there was also concern about the position of a conveyancing matter.
What particularly concerned the SDT was that it was the respondent’s third appearance before it and the course of conduct displayed by the respondent, and his failure to engage with these proceedings, showed a complete disregard by the respondent to work within the regulatory regime that all solicitors must comply with.
The SDT noted that when the respondent had previously appeared before it, he had admitted a failure to deal with the SRA in an open, prompt and co-operative manner, as well as a failure to pay counsel’s fees. It appeared that he had not learnt his lesson. The SDT noted that the respondent’s letter of 2 August 2011 provided details of his medical difficulties, however the medical report attached was dated 28 July 2011, and was not up-to-date. The SDT had not been provided with any updated prognosis or diagnosis.
In the absence of those, it was unable to draw any conclusions. The respondent had indicated in his letter that he was in the process of closing down his practice and he intended to retire from law. His behaviour had brought the profession into disrepute and he had caused at least one member of the public to suffer as a result of his conduct. His failure to co-operate with the SRA prevented the authority from carrying out its regulatory function which was necessary to ensure the protection of the public.
The SDT considered the present as being a serious case, particularly having regard to the respondent’s two previous appearances before it and the findings it had made on those occasions.
In all the circumstances, the appropriate order was that the respondent be suspended for an indefinite period. If he were to make an application to lift that suspension in the future, the SDT would expect him to be able to show that he had complied with the adjudicator’s decision dated 23 August 2010. The respondent was ordered to pay costs of £5,500.