SDT: Rashpal Singh
- Application 10792-2011
- Admitted 1986
- Hearing 6 March 2012
- Reasons 4 April 2012
The SDT ordered that the applicant’s application for restoration to the roll be refused. The SDT had taken careful note of the test for restoration as set out in the outline submissions on behalf of the applicant: that the former solicitor must demonstrate a complete rehabilitation in the restoration to the roll, and that restoration would not involve any damage to the reputation of the profession in the eyes of a reasonable member of the public. It was some time since the applicant had been struck off and his application was not premature.
The SDT had considered the issue of complete rehabilitation. The applicant accepted that he had worked in breach of conditions imposed by the respondent. The SDT did not consider that the breaches had occurred in a grey area. It had been open to the applicant to clarify with the Law Society if he had been in any doubt about the extent of the conditions but he had not done so. The SDT found, from having heard him give evidence in lengthy cross-examination about his state of mind, that he had not taken any steps at all to consider the conditions. The SDT found that very troubling. He had attempted to shift the responsibility for the breaches on to others but the SDT did not accept that. He needed to take active responsibility for compliance and resigning after the event was no substitute. Generally, the SDT had found the applicant’s evidence to be evasive and opaque on that subject. In respect of the original offences, while not at the very top-end of seriousness, they were nevertheless very serious resulting in an ongoing loss of over £200,000 to the Compensation Fund.
The SDT had noted that the applicant had been in employment for part of the time since he had been struck off but had made no attempt to repay the monies lost. Many of the references submitted by the applicant dated from 1996 and had been before the original SDT when arriving at its decision to strike off. The SDT attached little or no weight to the 1996 references. It had noted the more recent testimonials from 2006 onwards with their references to the applicant’s high level of integrity and honesty and the high esteem in which he was held in the Sikh community. His honesty had never been in issue at the present hearing. The SDT had also considered the submissions on behalf of the applicant concerning his efforts at rehabilitation, which included his work in the profession and in positions of trust and responsibility. The applicant had produced evidence of his knowledge of the law and the legal studies he had undertaken to achieve an LLM.
The SDT had noted that there was a firm of solicitors prepared to offer the applicant employment should his application for restoration succeed. In respect of rehabilitation, the SDT had also taken into account the very sad and challenging family circumstances in which the applicant had found himself, culminating in the death of his son. It had, however, also had regard to the case of Bolton where the Court of Appeal had held that factors such as the consequences of striking-off for the applicant and his family were relevant and should be considered on an application for restoration ‘but none of them touches the essential issue, which is a need to maintain among members of the public a well-founded confidence that any solicitor whom they instruct will be a person of unquestionable integrity, probity and trustworthiness...’.
The SDT found that the applicant’s behaviour in breaching the conditions imposed on him showed that his rehabilitation was not complete. It also found that as he showed that he could not be trusted with keeping to the conditions imposed by his regulator, the reputation of the profession in the eyes of reasonable members of the public would be damaged by his restoration and it would be contrary to the interests of the public to grant the application. The respondent was ordered to pay costs of £3,000, such costs to be paid within 56 days of the date of the order.