The Solicitors Regulation Authority has successfully appealed to the High Court to have a lawyer struck off the roll for dishonesty, overturning an ‘unduly lenient’ Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal verdict.
The tribunal in February 2011 ordered Millard Spence of Handsworth Wood, Birmingham, to be suspended for three years after he had continued to practise without a practising certificate or professional indemnity insurance. In its appeal, the SRA argued the sentence was unduly lenient. The High Court agreed and last week ordered Spence to be struck off.
In its judgment, the court understood why the tribunal had not seen the case as the most serious example of dishonesty, but ruled that clients were at the highest possible risk if he continued to practise without insurance or a certificate.
David Middleton, SRA executive director, said: ‘It was important to bring the appeal against the SDT's decision in this case to maintain the principle that a finding of dishonesty will almost invariably indicate that a solicitor is a risk to the public and therefore that strike off is the appropriate order to be made.
‘We do not believe that substantial fining powers are a substitute for strike-off when the risk to the public is substantial.’
Spence set up his own practice in July 2007, but in September 2007 his professional indemnity insurance ran out. His practising certificate was subsequently cancelled by the SRA following non-payment of the fee for 2007-08. The SRA intervened in Spence's practice in July 2008.
The tribunal found Spence guilty of making dishonest and misleading statements to the SRA, including informing the SRA that he was at home rather than acting as an advocate in a criminal case when his firm was inspected in February 2008.