A solicitor who breached accounts rules during a ‘very traumatic’ period of his life has been fined £10,000 and ordered to pay costs of almost £8,000 by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal.
Harmail Gill, admitted in 1997, and his former business partner were accused by the Solicitors Regulation Authority of breaching various provisions of the SRA Accounts Rules 2011, including making improper withdrawals of client money from a client account and failing to keep accounting records properly written up at all times.
Gill, who was a partner and finance compliance officer at the time, admitted to the breaches. The SRA also accused him of manifest incompetence, which he denied.
According to the judgment, in one instance Gill transferred £400,000 from a client account to his personal account. He said he did this because he was concerned about his business partner’s conduct and wanted to safeguard the money.
The SRA accepted that Gill had acted with good intentions but said ‘he had gone about it in the wrong way’.
The tribunal found that Gill had breached SRA accounts rules and had shown manifest incompetence, stating there had been ‘a complete lack of governance and meaningful oversight’.
In mitigation, the tribunal noted that Gill had closed the firm once alerted to the issues, had a ‘previously unblemished career’ and had shown genuine insight.
Gill told the tribunal that the death of a close family member ‘had affected him greatly and he found the whole of that period to be very traumatic’. He added that it had been a ‘long and difficult road’ to become a solicitor and that he was ‘deeply sorry’.
Gill was ordered to pay a £10,000 fine and £7,937 in costs.