SDT: Stephen David Baron
- Application 10351-2009
- Admitted 1982
- Hearing 17 February 2012
- Reasons 22 March 2012
The SDT ordered that the respondent should be struck off the roll. The respondent had breached rules 1.02 and 1.06 of the Solicitors Code of Conduct 2007 in that he had failed to act with integrity and had behaved in a way which was likely to diminish the trust the public placed in the profession by virtue of his convictions under the Fraud Act 2006.
The SDT had found the allegation, which was denied by the respondent, substantiated beyond reasonable doubt. The SDT had considered the respondent’s statement. He relied on his assertion that his conviction was, in his view, ‘a gross miscarriage of justice and that [he] was and remained innocent of all charges’. He made allegations concerning the jury. Such statements did not in the view of the SDT go to mitigation, but were instead an attempt to undermine the credibility of the conviction which the SDT was not prepared to entertain.
The respondent had been convicted by a jury of five counts of conspiracy to defraud. According to the judge’s sentencing remarks, the conviction had followed a trial which had lasted approximately nine weeks, two weeks of which had been taken up with the jury’s retirement. The respondent had been sentenced to 18 months’ imprisonment to run concurrently on each count. His appeal to the Court of Appeal had been dismissed.
The amount of money obtained from the respondent’s lender clients in relation to the transactions was £898,000. The judge had considered the respondent’s role and responsibility in the conspiracy, and had referred to his position as a solicitor as being one of trust and honour. He said the respondent’s case was difficult and sad. The judge had regarded the respondent’s very grave breach of trust as important. He had said that the jury was satisfied that the respondent had acted dishonestly, and that it had not been just a lapse of professional conduct or failing to keep proper records. He had described the respondent’s actions as having been used to help perpetrate the frauds.
The judge had identified that when fraud of that type was being committed, the need for a solicitor who was prepared to be involved dishonestly was all important. The SDT echoed the views of the sentencing judge. When imposing sanction, the SDT had in mind its duty to protect the public and confidence in the reputation of the profession, while also giving due consideration to the need to be proportionate.
The SDT had considered the limited information concerning the respondent’s personal circumstances as set out at paragraph 8 of his statement. However it would be falling down in its duty to the public and the profession if it did anything other than strike the respondent off the roll.
The respondent had been convicted of serious offences of dishonesty resulting in sentences of imprisonment which had left his integrity in tatters. He was no longer fit to practise as a solicitor. The respondent was ordered to pay costs of £10,000.