A tribunal has criticised the regulator’s insistence on contesting a decision to allow a reformed solicitor to practise without restrictions. The Solicitors Regulation Authority had opposed lifting the restriction on James Zacharias being able to work as a sole practitioner in the future.
The 42-year-old was suspended for a year in March 2013 for accounts rules breaches and the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal at the time imposed an order barring him from operating as a sole practitioner.
When Zacharias applied to the tribunal to remove all restrictions the SRA’s own authorisation officer determined it was no longer in the public interest to place any practising restrictions on him.
Nevertheless, at a hearing last month before the tribunal, the SRA went against the officer's advice and argued for the restriction to remain.
The tribunal granted the application in full, and determined that the time claimed by the SRA for the hearing was ‘excessive’ and its stance in going against the authorisation officer was ‘unfortunate’. Finding that the SRA’s approach had increased the costs, the tribunal reduced the amount payable by Zacharias to £800 (although it was not disclosed how much the SRA had applied for).
The tribunal heard that in the five years since his misconduct hearing, the Merseyside solicitor had qualified as a teacher and worked part-time as a law lecturer. He had set up a not-for-profit organisation providing free legal advice and appeared pro bono at family courts as a McKenzie friend. He submitted he had learned from his experience and that his underlying misconduct was as a result of recklessness and naivety, but he had now rebuilt his career in a different area of law and re-established his credibility.