SDT: Gerald Harris Franks
The SDT ordered that the respondent should be suspended from practice as a solicitor for two years to commence on 19 March 2012; that upon the expiry of that fixed term of suspension the respondent should be subject to the condition imposed by the SDT that he might not practise as a sole practitioner; and that there should be liberty to either party to apply to the SDT to vary the condition set out above.
- Application 10778-2011
- Admitted 1983
- Hearings 17 January 2012
- Reasons 2 February 2012
The respondent had behaved in a way likely to diminish public trust in the legal profession in that he had failed to comply with the decision of a Legal Complaints Service adjudicator dated 15 June 2010, in breach of rule 1.06 of the Solicitors Code of Conduct 2007; he had delayed in responding to the LCS and in doing so had failed to deal with the LCS in an open, prompt and co-operative way, in breach of rule 20.05 of the code; he had failed to respond to correspondence from the SRA and in so doing had failed to deal with the SRA in an open, prompt and co-operative way, in breach of rule 20.05 of the code; and he had failed to provide a good standard of client care and work, including the exercise of competence, skill and diligence, in breach of rule 1.05 of the code. The SDT considered that the present was one of the worst cases of delay which had come before it, in which a solicitor had put his personal interests above those of his clients.
The SDT deplored the fact that the estate in question had still not been finally dealt with nearly 10 years after the grant of probate had been issued and in particular that an asset received by the executor had not been distributed some five years later, notwithstanding regular reminders from one of the beneficiaries and the regulator.
The SDT also expressed grave concern about the way in which the respondent had disregarded the directions of the adjudicator and had failed to deal in a timely and responsive fashion with his regulator and the LCS. His standard of work had been far from that which was expected of a solicitor.
The SDT considered that the respondent’s conduct was serious enough to merit a period of suspension from practice for two years. Bearing in mind that he was a sole practitioner, it had decided to allow him a period of two months to resolve matters at his practice before the suspension took effect. It had also decided to impose a condition on the respondent that should he return to practice at the end of his period of suspension he should not be permitted to operate as a sole practitioner.
The respondent was ordered to pay costs of £4,811.