The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal has questioned why allegations against a veteran solicitor took so long to be reviewed, saying the pending investigation ‘must have weighed heavily upon him’.
Andrew Jonathan Jacobs, admitted in 1983, was fined £7,501 for breaching an undertaking given during a conveyancing transaction in November 2013. The misconduct consisted of three related payments in a period of less than three weeks.
The tribunal said it had ‘significant sympathy’ for Jacobs, who was dealing with the serious ill-health of his sister at the relevant time. It found that her subsequent death caused him ‘extreme emotional upset which distracted him from his work with the result that he became confused and unable to focus. This impacted on his ability as to how best to deal with a complex transaction’.
The three-person panel said that Jacobs had had a ‘distinguished’ career as a solicitor for 35 years during which time he had an unblemished disciplinary record. It added that his actions ‘were not deliberate in the sense that they were a calculated breach of his undertaking but were rather in the nature of a mistake as to his obligations. His culpability was therefore moderate’.
Jacobs was found to have co-operated with the Solicitors Regulation Authority and had made ‘early and frank’ admissions to the allegations.
However, the tribunal said the SRA’s allegations were ‘somewhat stale’ and that it was ‘unclear why there had been such a substantial delay’.
‘The allegations dated back to 2013, and whilst they may have come to light in 2017, the Respondent had been subject to a pending investigation for a number of years since 2017 which must have weighed heavily upon him.’
Jacobs was ordered to pay a fine of £7,501 and to pay costs of £2,249.