The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal was free to strike off a distinguished partner with more than 30 years’ experience in the profession, the High Court has ruled.
Andrew William Shaw, a former partner with litigation specialist Stewarts Law LLP, had appealed the tribunal decision to ban him taken last year in relation to a finding of dishonesty.
Shaw, 61, claimed the tribunal made errors of principle and that the sanction was inappropriate, instead asking for a suspension.
But following a one-day hearing last month in Shaw v Solicitors Regulation Authority, The Honourable Mrs Justice Carr DBE dismissed the appeal, stating that the penalty was open to the tribunal to impose. Describing the episode as a ‘professional tragedy’ for Shaw, she said it was not a conclusion she reached with any pleasure, but added that the consequence of a senior solicitor and officer of the court deliberately misleading the court in a sworn affidavit could not justify a different outcome.
’The tribunal was fully aware of Mr Shaw’s personal circumstances, his unblemished record over a distinguished 30-year career and numerous high-quality references, the fact that he had no predisposition to dishonesty and was unlikely to repeat his misconduct,’ said Carr.
‘But [these] are not unusual in this context. And they do not touch on the essential issue, which is the need to maintain public confidence in the profession.’
The court heard Shaw, who left Stewarts several years ago, was struck off in relation to a finding of dishonesty over the contents of an affidavit sworn by him and filed on behalf of his client. Representing a liquidating trust, Shaw and another solicitor, who was struck off but did not appeal, were found to have allowed misleading information to be provided to the court to help their client secure a freezing order.
A sanctions hearing had been ordered by Mr Justice Jay in 2014 after he questioned the original decision, made in 2013, to strike off both solicitors.
Shaw said the tribunal did not consider any exceptional circumstances, erred in finding that his dishonesty lasted for two to three days, and was wrong to distinguish his case from another where a solicitor was not struck off.
He stressed that the dishonesty was ‘extremely short in duration and momentary in nature’, did not relate to any underlying matters of substance and was of no pecuniary benefit to himself or his client.
The SRA argued the court was ‘plainly misled’ and there was no justification for the court to intervene.
Carr said the various criticisms of the sanctions judgment did not render the decision unsafe.