A solicitor who was fined £15,000 because a client paid money into his personal bank account has lost his High Court appeal against the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal.
Alexander Zivancevic was found guilty of misconduct by the tribunal earlier this year after he arranged for a client to pay £900 into his personal account in June 2013.
Zivancevic, who was a consultant solicitor with Hoffman-Bokaei-Moghimi Solicitors at the time, told the tribunal he had forgotten about the payment and had acted only because he was concerned the client might leave the country without settling the bill.
However, the tribunal found that Zivancevic had failed to act with integrity and failed to maintain the trust placed in him and the provision of legal services. He was ordered to pay a £15,000 fine and £5,750 costs.
Zivancevic appealed the judgment on two grounds: the finding of misconduct and the amount of the fine and costs. His counsel described the £15,000 fine as ‘too high and disproportionate with the severity of the offence’.
Mr Justice Walker dismissed the appeal. On the issue of integrity, he said: ‘It would be plainly wrong in law if a tribunal, after finding a breach of a rule and without giving further thought to the matter, automatically made an assumption that there must have been a lack of integrity. But that is not what happened in the present case.’
On public trust, he added: ‘Where, as here, Mr Zivancevic has not succeeded in his complaints about findings of lack of integrity, the circumstances of the present case are such that there is simply no room for him to be able complain about findings that his conduct undermined public trust.’
On the fine, Mr Walker said: ‘It was not suggested that the tribunal had erred in identifying band 3 as the appropriate category, but it was urged that the tribunal had been wrong to set the fine at the very top of the band rather than much lower.
‘I am not persuaded by this submission. This is a case in which the tribunal had found both lack of integrity and failure to maintain the trust placed in Mr Zivancevic and the provision of legal services.The tribunal found Mr Zivancevic’s culpability to be moderately high.’