Decisions filed recently with the Law Society (which may be subject to appeal)
Hearing 27-29 March 2023
Reasons 17 May 2023
The SDT ordered that the respondent should be reprimanded.
He had failed to notify the SRA of a judgment of an employment tribunal dated 17 April 2019, thereby breaching principle 7 of the SRA Principles 2011, and failing to achieve outcome 10.3 of the SRA Code of Conduct 2011.
In that judgment, the employment tribunal had found that the respondent had discriminated against the firm’s employee, B, by treating her unfavourably because of her pregnancy and maternity. The SRA had made the same allegation to the SDT, which had found that while B had been unfavourably treated by the respondent, it was not satisfied that this had been because of her pregnancy and maternity but had been for other reasons. In those circumstances, that allegation had not been proved.
The SDT found that the respondent had not wanted the inconvenience of reporting the matter to the SRA. To that extent the omission had been planned. He was a senior, named director of the firm and had had full control and responsibility for the failure to report.
No harm had been caused by the failure to report. The SRA had found out about the matter anyway, by way of a newspaper article following publication of the employment tribunal judgment.
Failing to report matters that ought to be reported to the SRA was too serious for the SDT to make no order, but in the present case, it was at the lower end of the scale. The likelihood of a repeat of the misconduct was unlikely. In the circumstances, the reputation of the profession and the protection of the public did not require a greater sanction than a reprimand.
The respondent was ordered to pay costs of £1,000.
Ronald George Paterson
Hearing 11-13 July 2023
Reasons 18 September 2023
The SDT ordered that the allegations against the respondent should be dismissed.
It was alleged that, by secretly listening in to a meeting held over Zoom from which he had specifically been excluded, the respondent had breached principles 2 and 5 of the 2019 SRA Principles, and paragraphs 1.2 and 1.4 of the Code of Conduct.
The SDT had not found that the respondent had been in attendance at the meeting. He had not been listed as an attendee in the draft minutes and had been unable to participate in the meeting. He had had no means of communicating with anyone present at the meeting other than his own client. He could not see who was present on the Zoom call, nor who was speaking at any particular time. He could not intervene and make representations on behalf of his client, as he had intended to do, had his client’s request that he be allowed to attend been acceded to. The ability to hear what was being said at the meeting did not amount to attendance.
The applicant had failed to prove to the required standard, that in listening to the meetings, the respondent had abused his position as a solicitor by taking unfair advantage of the other participants in the meeting.
In order to have misled any of the participants of the meeting, the respondent would have needed to have said something that caused the participants to believe that something was true when it was not. He had not in fact said anything; nor had he heard any misrepresentation and failed to correct it.
While the concept of a solicitor listening to a meeting from which they knew they had been excluded might be uncomfortable, in the circumstances of the present case, it did not amount to professional misconduct. The respondent had listened to the meeting on his client’s instructions in order to provide him with the legal advice he had been retained to provide, and to which his client was entitled.
Accordingly, having determined that the respondent’s conduct did not amount to professional misconduct, the SDT dismissed the allegations.
The SDT ordered that there be no order as to costs.
Zoe Kathryn Barshell
On 27 October 2023 a single adjudicator resolved to intervene into the practice of Zoe Kathryn Barshell, who practised as Zoe Kathryn Barshell (freelancer) from premises based at 129 Harrington Road, Bristol BS14 8JP. The first date of attendance was 31 October 2023.
The grounds of intervention were: there was reason to suspect dishonesty on Barshell’s part in connection with her practice as a solicitor (paragraph 1(1)(a)(i) of Schedule 1 – Part I to the Solicitors Act 1974); Barshell had failed to comply with rules (paragraph 1(1)(c) of Schedule 1 – Part I to the Solicitors Act 1974).
Chris Evans of Lester Aldridge LLP, Russell House, Oxford Road, Bournemouth BH8 8EX; email: Enquiries@LA-Law.com); has been appointed to act as the Society’s agent.
Adnan Hanif Solicitors
On 13 October 2023, the SRA intervened into the remainder of the recognised sole practice of Adnan Hanif, Adnan Hanif Solicitors, of 59A Scotland Road, Nelson BB9 7UY.
The grounds of intervention were: it was necessary to intervene to protect the interests of clients (or former or potential clients) of Hanif – paragraph 1(1)(m) Schedule 1 Solicitors Act 1974.
No intervention agent has been appointed.