Decisions filed recently with the Law Society (which may be subject to appeal)
Paul Ifeanyi Okafor Iwezulu
Hearing 20 May 2020
Reasons 8 July 2020
The SDT ordered that the applicant’s application for removal of conditions imposed by the SDT on 2 February 2016 should be granted.
On 2 February 2016, the SDT had ordered that the applicant be reprimanded and that he might not practise as a sole practitioner, partner of a recognised body or member of a limited liability partnership, legal disciplinary practice or alternative business structure.
The applicant had failed to carry out his role in the business effectively and in accordance with proper governance and sound financial and risk management principles, in breach of principle 8; and had failed to protect client money and assets, in breach of principle 10, by failing to ensure compliance with the SRA Accounts Rules 2011, by failing adequately, or at all, to supervise staff employed by the firm, and by having no understanding of, or effective control over, the finances of the firm despite being a signatory on at least one of its bank accounts.
The SDT in 2016 had clearly been satisfied that the applicant’s involvement in the misconduct had not been intentional and he had been a victim. The SRA had lifted its own restriction on the applicant’s practising certificate on 31 January 2020 and had stated that it was not necessary in the interests of the public to impose any practising certificate condition.
The applicant was genuine and sincere. He had shown remorse and insight and had learnt a hard lesson. He had cooperated fully with the regulator and did not now present any risk to the public. He had made it clear that he intended to work only as an employee in the future.
The references provided, one of which was from his current employer, spoke highly of the applicant and his work. The applicant had provided information about his continuing professional development. He had been subject to the SDT’s restriction since February 2016 and had complied fully with it.
The restriction was no longer necessary or appropriate to protect the public or the reputation of the legal profession.
The applicant was ordered to pay costs of £1,235.
Peter Jeremy Bown
Hearing 23-25 June 2020
Reasons 14 July 2020
The SDT ordered that the respondent should pay a fine of £20,000.
While in practice as a solicitor at Middleton Solicitors, the respondent had failed to inform his client that loans which they had advanced (and upon which he had acted) had not been secured on properties and that charges had not been registered at the Land Registry or at Companies House in respect of those loans, thereby breaching principles 4, 5 and 10 of the SRA Principles 2011.
He had acted in one or more transactions which bore a number of unusual features and/or the hallmarks of fraud and in failing to identify or act upon such matters he had breached principles 2 and 6.
He had caused or allowed the firm’s client account to be used as a banking facility by means of payments to third parties, contrary to rules 14.5 and 20.1 of the Solicitors Accounts Rules 2011, thereby breaching principles 2 and 6.
The respondent had been attempting to provide his clients with a full service, and he had considered that he was acting in his clients’ best interests. His conduct had not been motivated by personal gain. His actions had not been planned but had been a spontaneous reaction to each situation and informed by his failings to keep up to date with the regulatory regime.
He had expressed genuine insight into his misconduct. He had taken the necessary training to ensure that his continued practice in the profession was compliant with his regulatory duties. A financial penalty was appropriate in all the circumstances.
The respondent was ordered to pay costs of £15,500.
Hearing 8 July 2020
Reasons 22 July 2020
The SDT ordered that the respondent should be struck off the roll.
The respondent had deliberately failed to disclose to her client AT, her supervisor and principal of the firm SK and instructed counsel LS, that the firm had received from Carpenters Solicitors, acting for the respondents, (i) letters about costs owed by AT and enforcement of those costs; and (ii) court orders awarding costs against AT, in breach of principles 2, 4 and 6 of the SRA Principles 2011.
She had sent emails to SK and AT attaching draft letters to be sent to Carpenters Solicitors for their approval, knowing that the emails and draft letters were misleading, in breach of principles 2 and 6.
She had purported to send by way of an email the letter referred to in the previous allegation to Carpenters and to SK, knowing that the email would not reach Carpenters as she had deliberately used an incorrect email address for them. The email had been sent by the respondent to mislead SK into believing that she had sent the letter to Carpenters when she had not. The respondent had therefore breached principles 2 and 6.
She had forwarded the email referred to in the previous allegation to AT in order to mislead him into believing that she had sent the email attaching the letter to Carpenters, when she knew that they had not received it as she had deliberately used an incorrect email address for them and had received an email notification informing her that the email to Carpenters could not be delivered. She had therefore breached principles 2 and 6.
The parties had invited the SDT to deal with the allegations against the respondent in accordance with a statement of agreed facts and proposed outcome. The proposed sanction was that the respondent be struck off the roll. The SDT was satisfied to the requisite standard that the respondent’s admissions had been properly made.
In the light of the admitted conduct, the SDT agreed that the proposed sanction of strike-off was appropriate, proportionate and in accordance with the Sanctions Guidance.
The respondent was ordered to pay costs of £3,301.
On 21 August 2020, the adjudication panel resolved to intervene into the remainder of the recognised sole practice of Richard Doyle, formerly of Lindisfarne, Wey Road, Weybridge, Surrey KT13 8HR.
The firm closed on 30 September 2007 and Mr Doyle passed away on 9 October 2014.
The ground of intervention was: it was necessary to protect the interests of former clients of Mr Doyle.
No intervention agent has been appointed. The SRA will be making arrangements to take possession of the archived files. The intervention letter and notice were served on 25 August 2020.
UK & Co Solicitors Ltd
On 2 September 2020, the panel resolved to intervene into the licensed body, UK & Co Solicitors Ltd, based at 762-764 Bristol Road, Selly Oak, Birmingham B29 6NA, and into the practice of Iftikhar Aziz at UK & Co Solicitors Ltd.
Faraidon Raza is a non-lawyer manager at the firm.
The grounds of intervention into the practice of Aziz were: there was reason to suspect dishonesty on the part of Aziz in connection with his practice at the firm – paragraph 1(1)(a)(i) of schedule 1 to the Solicitors Act 1974 (as amended); and Aziz had failed to comply with the SRA Principles 2011 and 2019, the SRA Accounts Rules 2011 and 2019, and the Code of Conduct for Solicitors, RELs and RFLs (2019) which are rules made under sections 31 and 32 of the Solicitors Act 1974 (as amended) – paragraph 1(1)(c) of schedule 1 to the act.
The grounds of intervention into UK & Co Solicitors Ltd were: there was reason to suspect dishonesty on the part of the managers of the firm, Aziz and Raza, in connection with the firm’s business – paragraph 1(2)(d) of schedule 14 to the Legal Services Act 2007; and one or more of the terms of the firm’s licence had not complied with – paragraph 1(2)(a) of schedule 14 to the Legal Services Act 2007.
Marion Vesey of Shacklocks LLP, St Peter’s House, Bridge Street, Mansfield NG18 1AL; DX: 723580 Mansfield; tel: 01623 423073; email: firstname.lastname@example.org has been appointed to act as the Society’s agent. The first date of attendance was 4 September 2020. The practising certificate of Aziz has been suspended as a result of the intervention.