Decisions filed recently with the Law Society (which may be subject to appeal)
Queen Gladys Appoh
Hearing 4 February 2020
Reasons 5 March 2020
The SDT ordered that the respondent should be suspended from practice for 12 months from 4 February 2020, and upon the expiry of that term she should be subject to conditions, that she might not: (i) act as a manager or owner of any authorised body or authorised non-SRA firm; (ii) act as a compliance officer for legal practice or compliance officer for finance and administration for any sole practitioner, authorised body or authorised non-SRA firm; hold, receive or have access to client money, or act as a signatory to any client or office account, or have the power to authorise electronic transfers from any client or office account; that she might practise only in employment approved by the Solicitors Regulation Authority, with liberty to apply to vary those conditions.
The respondent had failed to take any or adequate steps to locate and safeguard escrow monies and to return them or cause them to be returned, in breach of principles 2 and 6 of the SRA Principles 2011.
She had failed to cause the firm to obey a court order to repay escrow monies plus interest and costs to company C or its solicitors, thereby failing to achieve outcome 5.3 of the Solicitors Code of Conduct 2011, and breaching principles 2 and 6.
She had failed to produce and keep accounting records properly written up to show accurately the money held on behalf of every client and trust, in breach of rules 29.1, 29.2, 29.8, 29.11, 29.12, 29.17(b), 31.1 and 31.8 of the SRA Accounts Rules 2011, thereby failing to achieve outcomes 7.2 and/or 7.4 of the code and breaching principle 7.
She had failed to carry out her duties as COFA adequately or at all, thereby failing to achieve outcomes 7.2 and 7.4 of the code, and breaching principles 6, 8 and 10.
In relation to client P, she had failed to challenge and stop the firm’s practice of charging clients for a contribution towards its professional indemnity insurance, thereby breaching outcome 1.1 of the code.
The SDT had considered carefully a statement of agreed facts and outcome proposed by the parties.
It appeared the respondent had been misled to some extent by solicitor X (against whom proceedings had been subsequently stayed indefinitely on the grounds of ill- health), although she ought not to have allowed that to happen as a partner and COFA of the firm.
Permanently removing the respondent’s ability to practise would be unreasonable and disproportionate in the light of solicitor X’s involvement in the allegations and the indefinite stay on those proceedings.
The SDT was satisfied that the statement of agreed facts and outcome should be approved.
The respondent was ordered to pay costs of £13,800, such order not to be enforced without leave.
Mark John Hughes Walker
Hearing 12 February 2020
Reasons 5 March 2020
The SDT ordered that the respondent should be suspended from practice for 18 months from 12 February 2020.
While in practice as a solicitor and manager at Hughes Walker Solicitors Limited the respondent had:
- failed to prevent, or have in place adequate systems to prevent, client monies being transferred from client account to office account other than in the circumstances allowed by rule 20.1 of the SRA Accounts Rules 2011, thereby breaching principles 7 and 8 of the SRA Principles 201,1 and rule 20.1 of the rules;
- caused or allowed sums to be held in client account, or failed to prevent sums being so held, which did not relate to an underlying transaction or a service forming part of the respondent’s normal regulated activities, thereby breaching principles 7 and 8, and rule 14.5 of the rules;
- failed to keep, or cause to be kept, accounting records and ledgers properly written up to show dealings with client money, thereby breaching principles 7 and 8, and rules 29.1(a) and 29.2(b) of the rules;
- failed to ensure that staff of the firm complied with the firm’s obligations under the rules, thereby breaching principles 7 and 8, outcomes O(7.2), (7.4) and (7.6) of the SRA Code of Conduct 2011, and rule 8.5(e)(i)(A) of the SRA Authorisation Rules 2011;
- when the firm was acting on behalf of individuals in respect of potential personal injury claims relating to holiday sickness, recklessly caused, allowed or failed to prevent the firm sending letters to potential defendants, purporting to advance personal injury claims relating to holiday sickness on behalf of clients, which contained assertions of fact in support of claims which had not been provided by clients, had not been otherwise verified by the firm as being correct and were misleading, thereby breaching principles 2 and 6;
- recklessly caused or allowed a case management system to be operated in respect of personal injury claims relating to holiday sickness which generated correspondence capable of misleading recipients, thereby breaching principles 7 and 8; and
- failed to provide to clients or potential clients any or adequate advice as to the merits of their possible claims, or as to their potential costs liability in the event of their claims being unsuccessful, thereby breaching principles 4 and 5.
The parties invited the SDT to deal with the allegations against the respondent in accordance with a statement of agreed facts and outcome. The SDT was satisfied that the respondent’s admissions had been properly made, and that a fixed term of suspension of 18 months was appropriate, given the seriousness of the misconduct.
The respondent was ordered to pay costs of £21,000.
Richard Daniel Smith
Hearing 26-28 November 2019
Reasons 2 March 2020
The respondent denied the allegations made against him by the applicant and the SDT, by a majority, found the allegations not proved. It therefore ordered that the allegations be dismissed and that there be no order for costs.
The allegations against the respondent were that, while in practice as a partner at Steele Raymond LLP, he had acted towards A in a manner which was inappropriate and/or unwanted in that, while in the firm’s office, he had touched her bottom on more than one occasion in circumstances in which:
- he knew or ought to have known that Person A had given no indication that such conduct was wanted; and/or
- he knew or ought to have known that his conduct was inappropriate; and/or
- the conduct occurred in the firm’s office while the respondent and A were engaged in their professional roles; and/or
- he was in a position of seniority over A in that he was a partner in the firm; and/or
- he knew or ought to have known that his conduct was an abuse of his position of seniority; and
- in doing so he had breached one or both of principle 2 and principle 6 of the SRA Principles 2011.
The SDT had been unable to reach a consensus, with the solicitor and lay members reaching a majority decision and the chair dissenting.
The majority of the tribunal had concluded that A was not a credible witness and that another witness, B, did not assist in corroborating her allegations, and had therefore found the allegations not proved beyond reasonable doubt.
Simon Taylor Solicitor
On 30 March 2020, the Adjudication Panel intervened into the former sole practice of Simon Taylor who practised as Simon Taylor Solicitor from 22 Upton Gardens, Worthing, West Sussex BN13 1DA.
The ground for intervention was: it was necessary to intervene to protect the interests of former clients of Mr Taylor (paragraph 1(1)(m) Schedule 1, Solicitors Act 1974).
Mr Taylor died on 15 December 2019.
No intervention agent has been appointed.
On 24 March 2020, the panel resolved to intervene into the above-named former sole practice of Rebecca Jane Elliott, formerly based at Suite 22, Enterprise House, Ocean Village, Southampton SO14 3XB.
The grounds for intervention were:
- Failure to comply with the SRA Accounts Rules 2011, SRA Code of Conduct 2011 and the SRA Principles 2011, which are rules made under sections 31 and 32 of the Solicitors Act 1974 (as amended); and
- It was necessary to exercise the powers of intervention to protect the interests of the former clients of Miss Elliott and the firm.
Michael Veal of Lester Aldridge LLP, Russell House, Oxford Road, Bournemouth BH8 8EX, tel: 01202 786341, DX: 7623 Bournemouth, has been appointed as intervention agent.
The SRA is making arrangements to uplift the practice files and documents.