Decisions filed recently with the Law Society (which may be subject to appeal)

Edward Sibley and Neil Sibley 
Applications 11780-2018; 11813/2018
Hearing 10-19 October 2018
Reasons 14 January 2019

The SDT ordered that the first respondent (admitted 1965) should be struck off the roll; and that the second respondent (admitted 1995) should pay a fine of £15,000. It further ordered that the second respondent might not practise as a sole practitioner or sole manager or sole owner of an authorised or recognised body; be a partner or member of a limited liability partnership, legal disciplinary practice or alternative business structure or other authorised or recognised body; be a compliance officer for legal practice or a compliance officer for finance and administration; hold client money; or be a signatory on any client account; with liberty to either party to apply to vary those conditions. 

The first respondent had caused the firm to accept a loan or loans from a client or former client PW, in breach of principles 2 and 6 of the SRA Principles 2011; and had caused the loaned funds to be transferred from client account to office account in breach of rule 20 of the SRA Accounts Rules 2011, and of principle 6.

He had personally accepted a loan made by or on behalf of PW in breach of principles 2 and 6; and had caused client monies to be withdrawn from client account, in breach of rule 20 of the rules and of principle 6.

He had caused loans to be made from monies held by the firm on behalf of PW to other clients of the firm, in breach of principles 2, and 6; and had caused client monies to be withdrawn from client account, in breach of rules 20 and 27 of the rules and principles 6 and 10.

He had allowed client monies to be held in and paid out of the firm’s client account, in breach of rule 14.5 of the rules and principle 7. 

He had failed to comply with a formal requirement of the Legal Ombudsman to make a payment to a former client, in breach of principles 6 and 7. 

He had failed to provide adequate or accurate information to clients about costs and had thereby breached principles 2, 5 and 6 and failed to achieve outcome 1.13 of the SRA Code of Conduct 2011. 

He had made transfers from client account to office account of excessive sums in breach of principles 2 and 6 . He had acted dishonestly. 

He had provided incorrect and misleading advice to Ms HB and her mother, Ms SS, concerning HB’s appointment as an executor of SS’s estate, displaying manifest incompetence and in breach of principle 6.

He had failed to report to the SRA serious financial difficulties relating to the firm, in breach of outcome 10.3 and principle 7. 

He had failed to notify the SRA within seven days that he was the subject of bankruptcy proceedings, in breach of regulation 15 of the SRA Practising Regulations 2011 and principle 7. 

He had practised as a solicitor while he was not authorised, in breach of rule 1 of the SRA Practising Framework Rules 2011. 

When notifying clients for whom he had acted as a solicitor of the intended transfer of their matters, he had failed to inform them that, while continuing to provide legal services, he would not continue to act as a solicitor, in breach of principles 5 and 6. 

He had failed promptly to comply with production notices served by the SRA pursuant to the Solicitors Act 1974, in breach of principle 7.

He had caused or allowed the court to be misled by relying upon a witness statement which he knew or ought to have known was not true, in breach of outcome 5.1, principle 6, and had acted recklessly.

The second respondent had caused or allowed the firm to accept a loan or loans from a client or former client PW, in breach of principles 2 and 6 of the SRA Principles 2011; and had caused the loaned funds to be transferred from client account to office account, in breach of rule 20 of the rules and of principle 6. 

He had allowed client monies to be held in and paid out of the firm’s client account, in breach of rule 14.5 of the rules and principle 7; in failing to remedy those breaches promptly upon discovery, he had acted in breach of rule 7.1 of the rules.

He had failed to report to the SRA serious financial difficulties relating to the firm, in breach of outcome 10.3 and principle 7. 

He had failed to cause the firm to comply with a formal requirement of the Legal Ombudsman to make a payment to a former client, in breach of principles 6 and 7. 

By reason of the above, he had failed to comply with his obligations as the firm’s compliance officer for legal practice to ensure, or take adequate steps to ensure, compliance with the firm’s obligations under the code, contrary to rule 8.5 of the SRA Authorisation Rules 2011. 

The first respondent’s motivation was to relieve the cashflow position of the firm, and he had subordinated the interests of clients to that.

The second respondent’s motivation was a reluctance to intervene and challenge the first respondent in the way that was required of a COLP. 

The first respondent was ordered to pay costs of £59,255; the second respondent costs of £27,242.

Richard Gregory Barca 
Applications 11816-2019
Admitted 1986
Hearing 8-9 January 2019 
Reasons 27 February 2019

The SDT ordered that the respondent should pay a fine of £20,000. 

The respondent had acted in an own interest conflict or where there was a significant risk thereof in respect of his client, Mrs JWB, in breach of rules 1.02, 1.03, 1.06 and 3.01 of the Solicitors Code of Conduct 2007, and principles 2, 3 and 6 of the SRA Principles 2011 and outcome 3.4. 

He had made a misleading claim in a witness statement served in litigation bought by R Solicitors on behalf of their client Mr O, in which they had sought to contest the validity of a legal charge over Mrs JWB’s property in favour of the respondent’s company, Safechase, in breach of principles 1 and 6. 

He had acted on behalf of Mr K in litigation on the instructions of a third party without confirming those instructions with Mr K, or seeing any written authority from Mr K that he could act on them, in breach of principles 4 and 5. 

The motivation for the respondent’s conduct in relation to Mrs JWB was to help her stay in her home and retain her livelihood, but at the same time he had had a financial motivation as he had ultimately gained over £49,000 from the interest on the loan he had made to her. He had not ensured that Mrs JWB had received independent legal advice and had placed his own interests above hers as he continued to benefit while the loan was outstanding. 

Mrs JWB had been a vulnerable client as she had been at risk of losing her home. The respondent should have known better than to offer a loan to her in such an emotionally heightened and charged environment, without insisting that she took independent legal advice. 

A fine of £20,000 was the appropriate and proportionate sanction in the case.

The respondent was ordered to pay costs of £26,000. 

Lee Robert Lipson
Applications 11860-2018
Admitted 2005
Hearing 13 February 2019 
Reasons 21 February 2019

The SDT ordered that the respondent should be struck off the roll. 

By accepting a conditional caution for the possession of Class A and Class B drugs, the respondent had breached principles 2 and 6 of the SRA Principles 2011.

By failing to inform the SRA that he had accepted a conditional caution, he had breached principles 2 and 7 and had failed to achieve outcome 10.3 of the SRA Code of Conduct 2011. 

By virtue of his conviction for driving while under the influence of drugs, contrary to section 5A(l)(a) and (2) of the Road Traffic Act 1988, he had breached principles 2 and 6.

By failing to inform the SRA that he had been charged with drug driving until after his conviction, he had breached principle 7 and had failed to achieve outcome 10.3. 

By providing a misleading statement to the police as to the circumstances underlying the conditional caution, he had breached principles 1, 2, 6 and 7. 

The matter was dealt with by way of the agreed outcome procedure. 

The level of culpability and harm of the respondent’s misconduct was high. He had been convicted of criminal offences and had misled the applicant and the police. 

Given the nature and circumstances of his misconduct, the only appropriate sanction was to strike the respondent off the roll. There were no exceptional circumstances in the matter such that striking the respondent from the roll would be a disproportionate sanction. 

The respondent was ordered to pay costs of £3,585.

Baljinder Hayre 
Applications 11834-2018
Admitted 2002
Hearings 29-30 January 2019 
Reasons 27 February 2019

The SDT ordered that the respondent should be struck off the roll. 

The respondent had filed at the Land Registry an incorrect plan, which encumbered his client’s (Company X) land, as opposed to the plan which was approved and signed by his client; and in doing so breached rules 1.04 and 1.05 of the SRA Code of Conduct 2007. 

He had falsified file attendance notes and/or the contents of file attendance notes and had relied on those file notes in his defence of a civil claim brought by Company X, and in doing so had failed to achieve outcome 5.1 of the SRA Code of Conduct 2011 and breached principles 2 and 6 of the SRA Principles 2011. In so doing he had acted dishonestly. 

He had acted for Company X and NK where there was a conflict, or a significant risk of conflict, in breach of rules 1.04, 3.01, 3.07 and 3.08 of the code.

The motivation for the respondent’s conduct was to avoid a claim by a disgruntled client and to avoid potential disciplinary proceedings. He had taken steps to construct falsified documents to corroborate his account of events. 

His misconduct had extended over a significant period of time as it had involved not only the falsification of the attendance notes and other documents but also the subsequent reliance on them in the civil trial. 

The respondent had been found to have been dishonest and there were no exceptional circumstances such that the case might be held to fall into the residual category referred to in the judgment in Sharma. No lesser sanction than striking off the roll was therefore appropriate.

The respondent was ordered to pay costs of £7,470. 

Gopal Krishen Gupta 
Applications 11832-2018
Admitted 1980
Hearings 28-31 January 2019 
Reasons 12 March 2019

The SDT ordered that the respondent should pay a fine of £45,000.

While in practice as a recognised sole practitioner at Gupta Law, the respondent had acted where there was a conflict or a significant risk of a conflict arising between his own interests and those of his clients and between the interests of different clients in respect of an application for collective enfranchisement, thereby breaching principles 2, 4, 5 and 6 of the SRA Principles 2011 and failing to achieve outcomes 3.4, 3.5 and 3.6 of the SRA Code of Conduct 2011. 

He had sought improperly to impede an investigation by the SRA of a complaint about his conduct by insisting that the proposed collective enfranchisement could not complete unless any such complaint was withdrawn, thereby breaching principles 2, 6 and 7 and failing to achieve outcome 10.7. 

The respondent had been motivated by the desire to protect his son’s interests and thus his own aligned interests. 

The appropriate sanction was a financial penalty. The respondent’s conduct fell at the higher end of level 4 of its Indicative Fine Bands. The appropriate level of fine was £45,000, marking the seriousness of the misconduct. 

He did not pose a risk to the public requiring the imposition of restrictions on his ability to practise.

The respondent was ordered to pay costs of £23,500.

Hartley Bain Solicitors

On 3 May 2019 the adjudication panel resolved to intervene into the above-named former sole practice of Cabeer Ahmed, formerly based at 188 The Grove, London E15 1NS on the following grounds:

  • reason to suspect dishonesty on the part of Ahmed in connection with his practice as a solicitor; and
  • Ahmed had failed to comply with the rules made under sections 31 and 32 of the Solicitors Act 1974 (as amended).   

No intervention agent has been appointed. 

The SRA will be making arrangements to take possession of the client account funds and archived files. 

The intervention letter and notice were served on Ahmed on 7 May 2019.

Ahmed did not hold a current practising certificate.