The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal has refused to allow a solicitor struck off almost a quarter of a century ago back on to the roll.
Sydney Toppin, admitted in 1984, applied to be restored to the roll in January 2018. He had previously applied to be restored to the roll in 2005 but withdrew the application.
The tribunal's judgment states that Toppin was struck off in May 1995 after being found guilty of conduct 'unbefitting' a solicitor. He had failed to maintain properly written up books of account, placed his own funds in a client account and used client funds for his own purposes.
Since then, he worked at two firms without authorisation. According to the judgment, he was convicted at Hendon Magistrates' Court in May 2008 after pleading guilty to an offence of failing to disclose to one of the firms that he had been struck off.
The Solicitors Regulation Authority told the tribunal that there was a risk that if Toppin were restored to the roll 'he would be "left to his own devices" as there was no evidence he would be properly supervised'.
Toppin told the tribunal that he accepted that had been 'naive and stupid' when he had first been practising but had never been dishonest. 'The applicant submitted that he did not believe that public confidence in the profession would be damaged if he were readmitted to the roll. He had not stolen money from clients or been convicted of an offence of dishonesty or otherwise brought the profession into disrepute,' the judgment says.
He also told the tribunal that it was nearly 25 years since he had been struck off 'and in the intervening time he had "learnt a lot" and had tried to conduct himself with propriety at all times'. If he was restored to the roll, he hoped to be employed by a community legal centre where he was doing voluntary work.
The tribunal recognised that Toppin had not been struck off for dishonesty. However, it said matters leading to the strike-off had been serious, noting the compensation fund had paid £73,000 arising from the breaches at the time of the original hearing.
The judgment states: 'The tribunal found that the applicant had not demonstrated rehabilitation, indeed he had shown reckless disregard for the rules on more than one occasion. In his evidence before the tribunal he appeared not to have a full appreciation of what he had done wrong as he appeared to resile from his plea of guilty in the magistrates' court.'
The tribunal refused Toppin's application.
He was ordered to pay £1,772.05 in costs. This figure was reduced from £3,544.10 because of his financial means.