Decisions filed recently with the Law Society (which may be subject to appeal)
Michael Thomas Barry and Rachel Taylor
Hearing 12-13 May 2020
Reasons 3 June 2020
The SDT ordered that the first respondent (admitted 1985) should be subject for an indefinite period to the conditions that he might not:
(i) practise as a sole practitioner or sole manager or sole owner of an authorised or recognised body or as a freelance solicitor or as a solicitor in an unregulated organisation;
(ii) be a partner or member of a limited liability partnership, legal disciplinary practice or alternative business structure or other authorised or recognised body;
(iii) be a head of legal practice or compliance officer for legal practice, or a head of finance and administration or compliance officer for finance and administration;
(iv) hold client money other than with leave of the Solicitors Regulation Authority; or
(v) be a signatory on any client account other than with leave of the SRA, with liberty to apply to vary those conditions.
The SDT ordered that as from 13 May 2020, except in accordance with Law Society permission:
(i) no solicitor should employ or remunerate the second respondent in connection with his practice as a solicitor;
(ii) no employee of a solicitor should employ or remunerate the second respondent in connection with the solicitor’s practice;
(iii) no recognised body should employ or remunerate the second respondent;
(iv) no manager or employee of a recognised body should employ or remunerate the second respondent in connection with the business of that body;
(v) no recognised body or manager or employee of such a body should permit the second respondent to be a manager of the body; and
(vi) no recognised body or manager or employee of such a body should permit the second respondent to have an interest in the body.
The first respondent, while in practice as the principal of Mallory & Barry, had failed to prevent improper transfers from the firm’s client account to a value of £305,461, in breach of rules 20.1 and 20.9 of the SRA Accounts Rules 2011 and principles 6 and 10 of the SRA Principles 2011. He had been manifestly incompetent.
He had continued to fail to prevent improper transfers from the firm’s client account, to a value of £181,333.64, in breach of rules 20.1 and 20.9 of the rules and principles 2, 6 and 10. He had been manifestly incompetent.
He had failed to reconcile the firm’s client bank account, in breach of rules 1.2(e) and 29.12 of the rules and principles 6, 8 and 10.
In his capacity as the compliance officer for finance and administration (COFA) at the firm, he had failed to ensure or take adequate steps to ensure compliance with the firm’s regulatory obligations under the rules, in breach of his obligations under rule 8.5 of the SRA Authorisation Rules 2011 and principle 7.
The second respondent had been guilty of conduct of such a nature that, in the opinion of the SRA, it would be undesirable for her to be involved in a legal practice in that, while employed as the firm’s bookkeeper, she had made improper transfers from the firm’s client bank account to a value of £305,461 in breach of rule 20.1 of the rules, and principles 6 and 10.
She had made improper transfers from the firm’s client bank account to a value of £181,333.64, in breach of rule 20.1 of the 2011 rules, and principles 2, 6 and 10.
The first respondent’s misconduct had been principally a result of neglect and carelessness rather than any planned course of action.
It was necessary to protect the public from future harm that would be caused if the first respondent returned to management. The appropriate sanction was therefore a restriction order.
The second respondent’s motivation was to keep the firm afloat and not personal enrichment.
The SDT was satisfied that it would be undesirable for her to be employed by or in connection with a legal practice, and duly made an order under section 43.
The first respondent was ordered to pay costs of £10,700 and the second respondent £7,133.
Hearing 19 May 2020
Reasons 16 June 2020
The SDT ordered the respondent to pay a fine of £10,000.
While in practice at 174 Solicitors Ltd between about November 2014 and November 2016, the respondent had failed adequately to advise his clients investing in four property development schemes about the high risks inherent in the schemes and, in so failing, had breached principles 4, 5 and 6 of the SRA Principles 2011, and had failed to achieve outcome 1.5 of the SRA Code of Conduct 2011.
The parties had invited the SDT to deal with the allegations against the respondent in accordance with a statement of agreed facts and outcome.
The SDT had reviewed all the material before it and was satisfied to the requisite standard that the respondent’s admissions had been properly made.
The respondent had now accepted that he had not provided adequate advice to his clients, but the SDT noted that at the time he had considered he had complied with his obligations.
While not intended, the harm was foreseeable given the respondent’s level of experience. He had a lengthy and previously unblemished disciplinary record, and had made admissions to the matters raised.
The appropriate sanction in the matter was a financial penalty.
The respondent was ordered to pay costs of £15,000.
On 23 June 2020, the Adjudication Panel resolved to intervene into Kirsten Von Wedel, practising as K Law of 1 The Old Court House, London Road, Ascot SL5 7EN. The grounds of intervention were:
- There was reason to suspect dishonesty by Wedel in connection with her practice as a solicitor at K Law (paragraph 1(1)(a)(i) of Schedule 1 – Part I Solicitors Act 1974).
- Wedel had failed to comply with rules made under sections 31 and 32 of the Solicitors Act 1974 (paragraph 1(1)(c) Schedule 1 – Part I Solicitors Act 1974).
Michael Veal of Lester Aldridge, Russell House, Oxford Road, Bournemouth BH8 8EX; tel: 01202 786341; email: firstname.lastname@example.org; has been appointed to act as the Society’s agent. Wedel’s practising certificate is suspended as a result of the intervention decision.