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

Levent Halil Chetinkaya and Tracey Curaba

Application 11818-2018

Hearing 15-17 January, 15 April 2019

Reasons 31 May 2019

The SDT ordered that the first respondent (admitted 2000) should be struck off the roll. 

The SDT ordered that as from 15 April 2019 except in accordance with Law Society permission (i) no solicitor should employ or remunerate the second respondent in connection with their 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 had instructed the second respondent to create and backdate a letter in order to create a misleading version of events on a conveyancing file, in breach of principles 2, 4, 5 and 6 of the SRA Principles 2011. He had acted dishonestly. 

He had failed to inform his client that her documents had been lost and instead had deliberately misled her as to the whereabouts of the documents in an attempt to conceal the loss, in breach of principles 2, 4, 5 and 6. He had acted dishonestly. 

The second respondent had, on the first respondent’s instructions, created and backdated a letter, knowing that it would create a false and misleading account of events on a conveyancing file, in breach of principles 2, 4, 5 and 6. She had acted dishonestly. 

Dishonesty had been found proved against the first respondent. His misconduct was deliberate and calculated and had continued over a period. There were two incidences of dishonesty, which had implicated and affected others, the second respondent, the client and the firm. 

His personal circumstances were not such as to absolve him from what he had done. The protection of the public and the profession required that he should be struck off the roll. 

The second respondent’s misconduct was serious, involving a finding of dishonesty. While she acknowledged that what she had done was wrong she had emphasised that she had acted under orders from the first respondent, whom she regarded as her ‘boss’.

In the circumstances, a section 43 order in respect of the second respondent was appropriate.

The first respondent was ordered to pay costs of £9,000. The second respondent was ordered to pay costs of £1,000.

James O’Connor and Giles Guy Robertson

Application 11872-2018

Hearing 8-10 April 2019

Reasons 28 May 2019

The SDT ordered that the first respondent (admitted 1997) and the second respondent (admitted 2013) should both be struck off the roll. 

While in practice as a solicitor, compliance officer for legal practice and compliance officer for finance and administration of Barrington Lewis Law Ltd, the first respondent alone had failed to detect or prevent the misappropriation of the sum of £140,731.97 from monies held in a client account on behalf of company T, in breach of principles 4, 6 and 8 of the SRA Principles 2011 and rules 6, 20 and 21.2 of the SRA Accounts Rules 2011. 

He had failed to maintain client ledgers or client liabilities matter listings, and failed to conduct reconciliations of client accounts, in breach of principles 4, 7, 8 and 10, rules 29.1, 29.2, 29.4, 29.9 and 29.12 of the 2011 rules and rule 8.5(e) of the SRA Authorisation Rules 2011 (SAR).

He had misled the SRA by declaring that the firm did not hold client money, in circumstances where it did, in breach of principles 2, 6 and 7. He had acted dishonestly. 

He had caused or allowed staff wages in the sum of about £8,830.00 to be paid from the firm’s client account, in breach of principles 2, 6, 8 and 10 and rule 20.1 of the SAR. 

He had failed to cause the firm to submit accountant’s reports to the SRA for the period 2010 to 2016, in breach of principles 7 and 8 and rules 32 and 32A of the SAR. 

He had submitted, or caused or allowed the submission of, a proposal form to the firm’s professional indemnity insurers which was misleading, in breach of principles 2, 6 and 7. He had acted dishonestly. 

He had made statements to the SRA which were misleading, in breach of principles 2, 6 and 7. He had acted dishonestly.

He had paid, or caused or allowed to be paid, marketing fees to H&M and BETA for the introduction of personal injury work, in breach of section 56(1)(b) of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012, principle 7 and outcome 9.8 of the SRA Code of Conduct 2011. 

The second respondent alone, while in practice as a solicitor at the firm, had misappropriated the sum of £140,731.97 from monies held in a client account on behalf of company T, in breach of principles 2, 4, 6 and 8 and rules 6 and 20 of the SAR. He had acted dishonestly.

He had allowed a third party, company T, to have access to the firm’s client account, in breach of principles 2, 6, 8 and 10.

He had knowingly made misleading statements to the SRA, in relation to whether he was proposing to manage a law firm, when he had already applied to set up a recognised body known as Robertson & Co Solicitors Ltd, in breach of principles 2, 6 and 7. He had acted dishonestly. 

In view of the serious nature of the first and second respondents’ misconduct, in that it had involved dishonesty, the only appropriate and proportionate sanction was to strike both of them off the roll. 

The respondents were ordered to pay costs of £56,952, on the basis of joint and several liability. The second respondent alone was ordered to pay additional costs of £616.

Guy Andrew Adams and Jonathan Piers Rich

Application 11891-2018

Hearing 23-24 April 2019

Reasons 28 May 2019

The SDT ordered that the first respondent (admitted 1989) should be reprimanded. The SDT had found the allegation against the second respondent (admitted 1992) not proved, and therefore ordered that it should be dismissed. 

The first respondent had not carried out a conflict of interest check when his client (Mr D) wanted to instruct him and his firm was already acting on a matter against that client (the estate of Ms H). He had thereby breached principles 5 and 8 of the SRA Principles 2011. 

The first respondent’s culpability was low, as was the seriousness of his misconduct. 

The likelihood of future misconduct of a similar nature was very low, as demonstrated by the introduction of a new conflict checking system at the firm. 

The first respondent had demonstrated genuine insight, and notwithstanding that the error in failing to carry out the conflict check had been an error by administrative staff, he accepted that it was his responsibility to ensure that it had been done. 

While the first respondent had been found culpable, his personal culpability did not mean that a reprimand was an insufficient sanction. Accordingly, the SDT had concluded that a reprimand was the appropriate and proportionate sanction in all the circumstances. 

The first respondent was ordered to pay costs of £1,250. There was no order as to costs against the second respondent. 

Richard Quinn

Application 11853-2018

Admitted 1984

Hearing 19-20 March, 23 April 2019

Reasons 21 May 2019

The SDT ordered that the respondent should pay a fine of £5,000. 

While employed as a solicitor at Riley Hayes & Co, the respondent had provided a ‘To Whom it May Concern’ letter regarding proof of funds to M on the firm’s letterhead which conveyed information regarding M’s financial position which he had not taken steps to verify, in breach of principles 2 and 6 of the SRA Principles 2011. He had acted recklessly.

He had provided a ‘To Whom it May Concern’ letter regarding an undertaking to M on the firm’s letterhead which (a) was misleading, and which he knew was misleading, in that it purported to be from the firm acting on behalf of THM 2014 Ltd when in fact no retainer was in place between the firm and THM 2014 Ltd; and (b) offered to give an undertaking to make funds available to Hartlepool United Football Club without completing due diligence on the source of the funds and the uses to which the funds would be put by Hartlepool United Football Club, in breach of principles 2 and 6. He had acted recklessly.

He had offered to make the firm’s client account available to receive a deposit of £250,000 from M (a) without informing the firm’s partners; (b) in the absence of a retainer and underlying transaction; and (c) without conducting adequate due diligence checks, in breach of principles 2 and 6. 

In respect of his dealings with M he had (a) accepted payments into his personal bank account in respect of work undertaken without informing the firm’s partners; and (b) had not undertaken adequate due diligence enquiries into M’s business activities, in breach of principles 2, 3 and 6.

While the respondent’s misconduct was entirely unacceptable with the high risk of harm ensuing from it, a financial penalty was sufficient to meet the primary objectives of sanction and would serve as a deterrent. 

Ordinarily, the appropriate fine would have been £12,000, but having taken into account the respondent’s limited means, a fine of £5,000 was sufficient to protect the public and the profession. 

The respondent was ordered to pay costs of £6,000.

Mohammad Homayon Reza

Application 11869-2019

Admitted 2011

Hearing 9-10 April 2019

Reasons 31 May 2019

The SDT ordered that the respondent should pay a fine of £5,000. 

The respondent had drafted and sent to his client A two letters and an email, containing one or more false or misleading statements, in connection with his firm’s conduct of a ‘right to buy’ application to the local authority on A’s behalf, thereby breaching principle 6 of the SRA Principles 2011. 

Although the respondent’s culpability was moderate, incompetently allowing correspondence that contained false information to leave a solicitor’s office was a serious matter. 

The respondent was not a risk to the public and the likelihood of repetition of his misconduct was low. It was therefore not necessary to remove his ability to practise. He had clearly learnt a lesson from the incident and he had taken steps to limit any damage that could have resulted from it. It was a single moderately serious incident, and the appropriate and proportionate sanction was a fine of £5,000. 

The respondent was ordered to pay costs of £17,000.

Trafficlawyer4U Ltd

 On 28 June 2019, the adjudication panel resolved to intervene into Trafficlawyer4U Ltd and into the practice of Robert Stephen Bimpson at Trafficlawyer4U Ltd, based at 60-66 Wellington Road, Ashton-Under-Lyne, Lancashire OL6 6DE.

The grounds for intervention in relation to Bimpson were: it was necessary to intervene to protect the interests of Bimpson’s clients or former clients. And in relation to Trafficlawyer4U Ltd: it was necessary to intervene to protect the interests of the firm’s clients or former clients.

Sean Joyce of Stephensons Solicitors LLP, Wigan Investment Centre, Waterside Drive, Wigan, Greater Manchester WN3 5BA, tel: 0333 344 4776, has been appointed to act as the Society’s agent. The first date of attendance was 3 July 2019. Bimpson’s practising certificate has not been suspended as a result of the intervention.

Les Jones Toni Moran

 On 3 July 2019, the adjudication panel resolved to intervene into the remnants of Leslie James Vernon Jones’s former sole practice, Les Jones Toni Moran. The firm’s address was 24 Hamilton Square, Birkenhead CH41 6AY. 

The firm closed on 29 April 2002. 

Mr Jones died on 20 February 2015.

The ground for intervention was: it was necessary to intervene into the former sole practice of Jones to protect the interests of his former clients.

No intervention agent has been appointed. The SRA will be making arrangements to collect all papers relating to this firm.