A solicitor struck off for drink driving and failing to account properly for client money displayed a ‘complete departure’ from the integrity, probity and trustworthiness expected of the profession, a tribunal has found.
The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) ordered Andrew John Peters to be struck off the roll and pay £19,000 in costs.
The SDT found Peters, formerly of Borehamwood-based Martin Smith & Co, was a danger to road users on two occasions in May 2016 – once after being convicted of drink driving and again for driving an unsuitable car without insurance. The two incidents occured within one week of each other. He also failed to report his convictions to the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), leading the tribunal to consider his actions so serious that a lesser sanction would not be appropriate.
Peters, admitted in 1986, admitted the allegations related to the driving offences. He claimed the drink driving conviction came while he was trying to assist a vulnerable female and that he drove the unsuitable vehicle as he was taking it for an MOT test having not driven it for ‘many months’.
In the SRA’s other allegation, in which dishonesty was proven, Peters was found to have sought payments from clients over a period of three years but failed to pay the money into either the office or client account. According to the tribunal he obtained around £16,000.
In mitigation Peters, who was not present, reportedly submitted that he was abusing alcohol and drugs at the relevant time but the tribunal found there was no evidence that he did not know what he was doing.
Finding that Peters had committed ‘deliberate calculated and repeated misconduct’ the tribunal said there were no exceptional circumstances where dishonesty should not lead to a strike off. According to the judgment, Peters admitted that he was not fit to practice.
The SDT noted that Peters had admitted he had applied some of the money for his wn personal use. ‘The respondent knew what the correct procedure was and that he had not paid large quantities of what he had received into the firm,’ the SDT found.
A spokesperson for Martin Smith & Co said the firm had raised concerns with the SRA and Peters was dismissed in November 2016.