Decisions filed recently with the Law Society (which may be subject to appeal)
Maneer Ahmed Ghani
Hearing 14-16 November 2018
Reasons 10 December 2018
The SDT ordered that the respondent should pay a fine of £5,000. The respondent had accepted referrals from and authorised payments for referrals in the sum of between £207,900 and £215,600 to Legal Claims Helpline Limited, when he knew or should have known that LCH was not authorised by the Ministry of Justice nor exempt from authorisation, and had thereby breached principles 1, 7 and 8 of the SRA Principles 2011 and failed to achieve outcome 7.3 of the SRA Code of Conduct 2011.
The law had not been complied with and that inevitably undermined the reputation of the profession; £200,000 had been paid away when it should not have been. The public would take a dim view of the misconduct; the Compensation Act 2006 had been passed to protect the public from unscrupulous referrers. This was a high-profile area of law which directly affected many individual members of the public.
It was, however, a single chain of events in a previously unblemished career. The respondent had demonstrated insight and regret and he had made admissions at an early stage. The seriousness of his misconduct was such that the appropriate sanction was a financial penalty.
The respondent was ordered to pay costs of £7,658. (That order gave effect to the SDT’s direction on 8 October 2018 that the applicant pay costs to the respondent of £3,500 in respect of an interlocutory application.)
Altaf Husen Bhurawala
Hearing 4 December 2018
Reasons 4 January 2019
The SDT dismissed the appellant’s appeal under section 44E of the Solicitors Act 1974 against the decision of the Adjudication Panel dated 8 February 2018.
On 17 October 2016, an adjudicator had found that the appellant had allowed his client bank account to be used as a banking facility, in breach of note (ix) to rule 15 of the Solicitors Accounts Rules 1998, and that he had held non-client money in the firm’s client account in breach of rule 15(2) of the rules. The adjudicator had rebuked the appellant and directed that he pay a financial penalty of £2,000. Both those matters were to be published.
On 11 November 2016, the appellant appealed against the adjudicator’s decision and the chief adjudicator quashed part of it. The findings detailed above were upheld. The panel rejected the appellant’s internal appeal against those findings and directed that the appellant be rebuked, pay a financial penalty of £2,000 and total costs of £850, and that the rebuke and financial penalty should be published.
The appellant appealed against the panel’s decision, contending that the panel had erred in fact and law in making or upholding findings that the appellant had breached the SAR, that there had been delay in considering and concluding the matter and that the sanction imposed was manifestly excessive.
The panel had come to conclusions that were open to it to make. There was no evidence that there had been any serious procedural or other irregularity in the panel’s process, considerations and findings. The panel’s approach had been careful, with consideration given to the appellant’s representations. The decisions it had made were neither wrong nor unjust.
The delay had not caused a breach of the appellant’s rights under article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The sanction imposed by the panel was not outside the bounds within which reasonable disagreement was possible. There was no evidence that there had been any serious procedural or other irregularity in the panel’s imposition of the sanction.
The appellant was ordered to pay costs of £11,350.
Hearing 22 November 2018
Reasons 3 January 2019
The SDT ordered that the respondent should pay a fine of £5,000.
Between December 2015 and February 2016, by sending inappropriate and offensive communications to one of his professional bodies, the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP), and other parties concerning a complaint made against him by MP, the respondent had breached principles 2 and 6 of the SRA Principles 2011.
It was clear from the respondent’s statement in mitigation that he had reacted to a complaint which he considered to be vexatious. While his conduct initially might have been spontaneous, it had subsequently gone beyond that as it had continued over a period of two months and involved third parties.
While the respondent might not have had direct control of the circumstances initially giving rise to his misconduct, as he believed he had been subjected to false claims being made against him by MP, his indignation should not have been expressed in the offensive and inappropriate language which he had used.
It was clear that the respondent’s behaviour had impacted directly on Ms M (the professional standards manager at STEP). She had spoken of feeling harassed, intimidated and bullied. There was no evidence of any harm caused to MP or his partner, but the reputation of the profession had been harmed.
The respondent might well have suffered from a longstanding medical condition but the SDT could not be satisfied that this had led to his behaviour. It was also pertinent that despite his medical condition, he appeared to have managed working with no problems for a long time prior to the incident.
The respondent was unlikely to behave in a similar way again. A fine was the proportionate and appropriate sanction.
The respondent was ordered to pay costs of £8,000.
Hearing 6 December 2018
Reasons 19 December 2018
The SDT refused the applicant’s application for restoration to the roll, and further ordered that the applicant might not, without leave of the SDT, make any further applications for restoration to the roll until the costs of the present application and the previous applications dated 26 July 2012 and 31 March 2014 had been paid or settled in full.
On 24 September 1998, the SDT had suspended the applicant from practice for six months. In September 2004, he had been struck off the roll. His application for restoration to the roll had been refused on 26 July 2012. He had made a further application which was refused on 31 March 2014. The present application was made on 4 December 2017.
The applicant, having not worked in the profession since being struck off the roll, was unable to provide ‘detailed evidence of substantial and satisfactory employment within the legal profession in the period since strike-off’.
He had worked in a related field, having set up and run a claims management company. That company had been found to have acted in breach of the regulations applying to it. Such conduct, rather than instilling faith in the applicant, would cause members of the public to have fundamental concerns about the appropriateness of his being a member of the profession. It was noted that he had failed to pay the financial penalty imposed by the Claims Management Services Regulator and upheld by the First-Tier Tribunal.
The SDT was extremely concerned that the applicant sought to rely on his work at the CMC in support of his application for restoration, but had not mentioned in his application the findings of the FTT, namely that his conduct had been reckless, negligent and in flagrant breach of the regulations.
He had displayed no insight into the seriousness of his previous misconduct, or the importance of abiding by rules and regulations set up for the protection of the public. His application fell short of the required standard to justify restoration to the roll by a considerable margin.
It was troubling to the SDT that the applicant thought it appropriate to make the present application in the knowledge that the costs for the previous two applications were still outstanding, and were being borne by the profession.
The applicant was ordered to pay costs of £4,983.
Khalid Mohammed Sharif
Hearing 11 December 2018
Reasons 4 January 2019
The SDT ordered that the respondent should pay a fine of £45,000.
While a director of and practising as a solicitor for Child & Child, currently Nova North, London, the respondent had, in relation to the E transaction and his clients the X clients, failed to take any or any adequate steps to ascertain at the time of acting for them whether the X clients were politically exposed persons, pursuant to regulation 14 of the Money Laundering Regulations 2007, and reportedly linked with the proceeds of crime, thus failing to achieve outcome 7.5 of the SRA Code of Conduct 2011 and breaching principles 6 and 7 of the SRA Principles 2011.
He had failed to apply enhanced customer due diligence, pursuant to regulation 14 in respect of the X clients, in a situation which by its nature presented a higher risk of money laundering where the customer had not been physically present for identification purposes and where he proposed to have a business relationship or carry out an occasional transaction with a politically exposed person, thus failing to achieve outcome 7.5 and breached principles 6 and 7.
He had failed to take any or any adequate steps to confirm his client’s instructions, thus failing to achieve outcome 1.2 and breaching principles 4, 5 and 6.
He had acted in the E transaction in circumstances which disclosed a significant risk that money laundering was taking place, in breach of principles 2 and 6.
In relation to the Y gift matter and his client Y, he had failed to conduct ongoing monitoring, pursuant to regulation 8, of his business relationship with Y at the time of acting for him in the Y gift matter, notwithstanding the risk factors in the transaction thus failing to achieve outcome 7.5 and in breach of principles 6 and 7.
He had acted in the Y gift matter in circumstances which disclosed a significant risk that money laundering was taking place, in breach of principles 2 and 6.
The respondent’s failings were very serious and his culpability high. There had been significant harm to the reputation of the profession when his failings had led to a risk of large amounts of money being laundered.
His misconduct was mitigated by his voluntary report to the regulator, his genuine insight into his misconduct and his full co-operation with the investigation. It had been of relatively brief duration, and no client had suffered loss as a result.
A fine was the correct sanction.
The respondent was ordered to pay costs of £40,000.
On 6 February 2019, the adjudication panel resolved to intervene into the above-named sole practice of Keith John O’Neill , formerly based at 1 Lorne Park Road, Bournemouth, Dorset BH1 1JJ, on the following grounds:
1. reason to suspect dishonesty on the part of O’Neill in connection with his practice as a solicitor; 2. O’Neill had failed to comply with the rules made under sections 31 and 32 of the Solicitors Act 1974 (as amended).
The SRA’s appointed agent is Karen Thompson of Lester Aldridge LLP, Russell House, Oxford Road, Bournemouth BH8 8EX; tel: 01202 786341; DX: 7623 Bournemouth.
The first date of attendance was 11 February 2019. O’Neill’s practising certificate has been suspended.
XL Law Limited
On 13 February 2019, the adjudication panel intervened into the practice of XL Law Limited at 152-154 Epsom Road, Sutton, Surrey SM3 9EU, following the death of the sole director and owner of the firm, Stanley Jeremiah. The grounds for intervention were: it was necessary to intervene to protect the interests of clients or former clients of XL Law Limited.
The SRA’s appointed agent is Richard Portlock of Blake Morgan, New Kings Court, Tollgate, Chandler’s Ford, Eastleigh SO53 3LG; tel: 02380 857270; email: firstname.lastname@example.org.