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

Dean Russell Easthope

Application 11847-2018

Admitted 2000

Hearing 9 May 2019

Reasons 23 May 2019

The SDT ordered that the respondent should be suspended from practice for nine months from 9 May 2019. 

While working as an associate solicitor in the criminal law department at Lanyon Bowdler Solicitors, on 20 August 2015 the respondent instructed AK, a secretary in the firm, to fabricate and backdate letters, attendance notes and other documents for the file in relation to client AS, in breach of principles 2, 4 and 6 of the SRA Principles 2011. 

Between 2 July 2015 and 27 October 2016, he instructed KB, a secretary in the firm, to fabricate and backdate letters, attendance notes and other documents for files in relation to clients GW, JF and DB, in breach of principles 2, 4 and 6.

Between 22 December 2016 and 23 December 2016, he instructed KW, a secretary in the firm, to fabricate and backdate letters and file notes for files in relation to clients JB and JW, in breach of principles 2, 4 and 6.

Between 13 June 2015 and 5 December 2016, he signed quality audit reports for the files in relation to clients AJ, LG, TP, PB, LE and HC to confirm that he had carried out the corrective actions specified within the forms when he knew that not to be the case, in breach of principles 2, 4 and 6. 

The SDT dealt with the allegations against the respondent in accordance with a statement of agreed facts and outcome.

The respondent’s motivation had been to satisfy the audit process and in turn his senior partners. He had repeated it a number of times and it was clearly a planned course of action. He had direct control over the circumstances and was a solicitor with 15 years’ experience at the material time. His culpability was therefore high.

No harm had been caused to individual clients but the reputation of the profession had been harmed. The public would not expect a solicitor to backdate or fabricate letters and attendance notes and other file documents. That was in the context of an audit, the purpose of which was to ensure high standards were being maintained. 

The respondent was ordered to pay costs of £6,986. 

Nurgus Malik and Jusna Begum Miah

Application 11867-2018

Hearing 8-9 April 2019

Reasons 23 May 2019

The SDT ordered that the first respondent (admitted 2009) should pay a fine of £12,000, and further that she should be subject to the conditions that she might not (i) practise as a sole practitioner or sole manager or sole owner of an authorised or recognised body; (ii) be a partner or member of a limited liability partnership, legal disciplinary practice or alternative business structure or other authorised or recognised body; (iii) be a compliance officer for legal practice or a compliance officer for finance and administration; (iv) hold client money; (v) be a signatory on any client account; or (vi) work as a solicitor other than in employment approved by the Solicitors Regulation Authority and subject to a system of supervision approved by the Solicitors Regulation Authority, with liberty to apply to vary those conditions.

The SDT ordered that the second respondent (an unadmitted fee-earner who had been called to the bar in 1998) should pay a fine of £12,000, and further that as from 9 April 2019, except in accordance with Law Society permission, (i) no solicitor should employ or remunerate her in connection with their practice as a solicitor; (ii) no employee of a solicitor should employ or remunerate her in connection with the solicitor’s practice; (iii) no recognised body should employ or remunerate her; (iv) no manager or employee of a recognised body should employ or remunerate her in connection with the business of that body; (v) no recognised body or manager or employee of such a body should permit her to be a manager of the body; and (vi) no recognised body or manager or employee of such a body should permit her to have an interest in the body. 

While in practice as a member of M-R Solicitors LLP, the first respondent had prepared applications for judicial review in respect of clients 1-5 when she knew or ought to have known that the claims were totally without merit. Consequently she had:

(i) brought claims which breached her obligations to the court not to make submissions that she did not consider, or ought not to have considered, were properly arguable, thereby breaching principles 1, 2 and 6 of the SRA Principles 2011, and failing to achieve outcomes 5.5 and 5.6 of the SRA Code of Conduct 2011; 

(ii) brought claims which were an abuse of process of the court, thereby breaching principles 1, 2 and 6; 

(iii) charged fees to vulnerable clients for services which had no prospect of delivering for the client their desired outcome, thereby breaching principles 2, 4 and 6 and failing to achieve outcome 1.5; and 

(iv) pursued a course of conduct that undermined the operation of the immigration system, thereby breaching principles 1, 2 and 6.

While in practice as an unadmitted fee-earner of the firm, the second respondent had been guilty of conduct of such a nature that in the opinion of the SRA it would be undesirable for her to be employed by a solicitor in connection with his or her practice as a solicitor, in that she had prepared applications for judicial review in respect of clients 6-14 when she knew or ought to have known that the claims were totally without merit, with the same consequences as the first respondent in respect of clients 1-5. 

The respondents’, albeit ill-conceived, motivation was to help their clients, as opposed to any sinister intent. 

They had caused harm to the immigration system, the courts and the Home Office which were ‘bogged down’ with spurious applications. Harm had been caused to vulnerable clients who had been charged for work of a very low standard and with no prospect of success. 

Through their actions, the respondents had unfairly raised clients’ expectations with regard to their obtaining indefinite leave to remain. Their misconduct was detrimental to the public purse, with resources being diverted away from genuine claims.

The respondents were each ordered to pay costs of £26,552.24.