SDT: John Alexander and William James Alexander
- Application 10804-2011
- Hearing 21 February 2012
- Reasons 16 March 2012
The SDT ordered that the first respondent (admitted 1973) should pay a fine of £10,000; and that the second respondent (admitted 1980) should pay a fine of £8,000.
The first and second respondents had not sent bills of costs or other written notification of costs to clients prior to withdrawal of monies from client account, in breach of rule 19(2) of the Solicitors Accounts Rules 1998; monies had been improperly transferred from client account to office account otherwise than in accordance with rule 22 of the rules; client account reconciliations had not been carried out in accordance with rule 32(7) of the rules; and full and proper client care and costs information had not been provided to clients, in breach of rule 2.03 of the Solicitors Code of Conduct 2007.
The allegation against the first respondent alone was that when acting as a professional executor, he had raised invoices for work that was not supported by documentary records and paid those invoices from estate monies without the prior approval of his co-executor and/or beneficiaries, in breach of rule 1.02 and rule 1.06 of the code; and that in so doing he had taken unfair advantage of the beneficiaries of the estate for his own benefit, in breach of rule 10.01 of the code.
The SDT said that it had found the case before it difficult to deal with since the allegations could not easily be shrugged off or blamed totally on an obviously errant cashier. The SDT noted the serious financial element, particularly in relation to the failure to carry out the reconciliations which are the responsibility of partners and in relation to which both respondents had failed themselves and the profession. The SDT acknowledged, however, that there had been no dishonesty and no apparent financial loss to any clients in relation to the breaches of the rules.
The SDT had considered all of the sanctions available to it from striking off the respondents on the basis that the matters were serious and the possibility of suspension but had decided to impose fines on both respondents, which it had tempered having regard to the allegations and on the basis of the respondents’ respective financial status and their previous goodwill within the profession.
The SDT also recommended that the applicant consider attaching conditions to the practising certificates of both respondents that they should only practise in employment approved by the applicant and that they should not practise as sole practitioners, partners of a recognised body or members of a limited liability partnership, legal disciplinary practice or alternative business structure.
The SDT ordered that the first and second respondents should be jointly and severally liable for the costs, to be assessed if not agreed.