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

Shuaib Saeed

Application 11945-2019

Admitted 2013

Hearing 29-30 July 2019

Reasons 4 September 2019

The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal ordered that the respondent should be struck off the roll. 

While an employee of MK Law Solicitors Limited, the respondent had repeatedly contacted A to try to persuade him to continue to use his services, despite being informed by A that he no longer wished to retain the respondent as his representative, and had attempted to persuade A to drop his service complaint to the firm, offering A money as an inducement to do so, in breach of principles 2, 4, 5 and 6 of the SRA Principles 2011. He had acted dishonestly.

He had prepared a settlement agreement for LD by which he alleged that a victim named JE would be compensated when in fact it was a device for the respondent to benefit personally, as the Metropolitan Police had confirmed that there was no victim named JE in their investigation against LD, in breach of principles 2, 4, 5, 6 and 10. He had acted dishonestly.

He had failed to cooperate with the SRA and deal with the SRA in an open and transparent manner, including failing to provide information following a lawful request to do so, thereby breaching principles 2, 6 and 7 and failing to achieve outcome 7.2 of the Solicitors Code of Conduct 2011.

The respondent’s motivation for the underlying misconduct appeared to be financial gain. In trying to persuade A to withdraw the complaint, his motivation was to try and salvage his career and avoid a referral to his regulator.

The respondent’s misconduct was extremely serious. Dishonesty had been proved. A finding of dishonesty would almost invariably lead to striking off, save in exceptional circumstances. There were no such circumstances so far as the SDT was aware: the appropriate sanction was for the respondent’s name to be struck off the roll.

The respondent was ordered to pay costs of £10,000.

Julie Dawn Sheldrake

Application 11964-2019

Admitted 2006

Hearing 2 August 2019

Reasons 23 August 2019

The SDT ordered the respondent to pay a fine of £16,000.

By virtue of the her conviction on 20 July 2012 of an offence contrary to section 7(6) of the Road Traffic Act 1988 and schedule 2 to the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988, the respondent had breached principles 2 and 6 of the SRA Principles 2011.

By virtue of her conviction on 7 October 2016 of an offence contrary to section 5(1)(a) of the Road Traffic Act 1988 and schedule 2 to the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988, she had breached principles 1, 2 and 6.

By virtue of her conviction on 7 October 2016 of an offence contrary to section 5(1)(a) of the Road Traffic Act 1988 and schedule 2 to the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988 she had breached principles 1, 2 and 6.

The respondent had brought her conduct to the attention of the applicant and had sought to assist in the investigation by disclosing all relevant documentation in her possession.

In her evidence, the respondent had demonstrated significant and compelling insight. In September 2016, she had admitted to herself that she had a problem with alcohol and had sought help in that regard. She had continued to access that help as at the time of the hearing and said that she would do so in the future.

The likelihood of the respondent reoffending was low.

The respondent was ordered to pay costs of £2,053.

John Knight, Ian David Brown and David Eric Brown

Application 11957-2019

Hearing 24-26 September 2019

Reasons 30 October 2019

The SDT ordered that the first respondent (admitted 2013) should be struck off the roll; that the second respondent (admitted 2000) should be fined £25,000; and that the third respondent (admitted 1989) should be fined £35,000. It further ordered that the second respondent might not, for an indefinite period, be a compliance officer for legal practice or a compliance officer for finance and administration; with liberty to either party to apply to vary that condition; and that the third respondent might not, for an indefinite period, hold client money or be a signatory on any client account; with liberty to either party to apply to vary that condition.

The first respondent had, while practising initially as a solicitor at Wosskow Brown Solicitors LLP and later as a director at Wosskow Brown Legal Services Limited, caused or allowed the firm’s client account to be used as a banking facility in respect of the BHSLL project, in breach of rule 14.5 of the SRA Accounts Rules 2011 and principles 6 and 8 of the SRA Principles 2011.

Without adequately assessing the risk, he had involved himself and the firm in the BHSLL project, which bore hallmarks of being a dubious investment scheme, in breach of principles 6 and 8.

He had caused or allowed the firm’s client account to be used as a banking facility in respect of the CL project, in breach of rule 14.5 of the rules and principles 6 and 8.

Ahead of a visit to the firm by the applicant’s forensic investigation officer, he had created or caused to be created documents in respect of the BH matter which were misleading, and which he knew were misleading, in breach of principles 2, 6 and 7. He had acted dishonestly.

In a response through his solicitors to an explanation with warning letter, he had referred to and placed reliance upon documents which were misleading, and which he knew were misleading, in breach of principles 2, 6 and 7. He had acted dishonestly.

He had amended and/or produced documents, or arranged for such documents to be amended and/or produced, relating to legal charges to show incorrect dates, in order to circumvent the deadline for registering such charges with Companies House, in breach of principles 2, 5 and 6. He had acted dishonestly.

The second respondent, while practising initially as a member and later as a director and the COFA at the firm, had failed adequately to supervise the first respondent in respect of the BHSLL matter, in that the first respondent had caused or allowed the firm’s client account to be used as a banking facility in respect of the BHSLL project, in breach of rule 14.5 of the rules and principles 6 and 8.

He had failed adequately to supervise the first respondent in respect of the BHSLL project, which bore hallmarks of being a dubious investment scheme, in breach of principles 6 and 8.

The third respondent, while practising initially as a member and later as a solicitor at the firm, had caused or allowed the firm’s client account to be used as a banking facility in respect of the GB ledger, in breach of rule 14.5 of the 2011 rules and principles 6 and 8.

He had caused or allowed the firm’s client account to be used as a banking facility in respect of the AC ledger, in breach of rule 14.5 of the rules and principles 6 and 8.

The first respondent had undertaken a series of quite deliberate acts of dishonesty and nobody else had been involved in that. There was no evidence that his health issues had impacted on, or caused, his dishonesty. There was no evidence of undue pressure having been applied to him. There were no exceptional circumstances.

Given the second respondent’s key position of responsibility in the firm and the length of time his failure to adequately supervise had continued, his conduct was very serious. The appropriate sanction was a financial penalty. It was also necessary for the protection of the public that there should be a restriction order in respect of the second respondent.

The appropriate sanction in respect of the third respondent was again a financial penalty, and a restriction order was also necessary for the protection of the public, due to the prolonged misuse of the client account.

The first respondent was ordered to pay costs of £19,662. The second and third respondents were ordered to pay costs of £39,324, on the basis of joint and several liability.

Jeffrey Crewe and Christopher Cann

Application 11904-2018

Hearing 6, 7 and 10 June 2019

Reasons 2 August 2019

The SDT ordered that the applications against the first respondent (admitted 1967) and the second respondent (admitted 1982) should be dismissed, and that there should be no order for costs.

The SDT had found that there was no case to answer on any of the allegations against the respondents.

Jayne Louise Greer 

Application 11826-2018

Hearing 27 September 2019

Reasons 2 October 2019

The SDT ordered that the respondent should be suspended from practice for 12 months from 26 September 2019. 

Upon the expiry of that term of suspension, the respondent should for an indefinite period be subject to the following conditions: that she 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; be a signatory on any client account or work as a solicitor other than in employment approved by the SRA. The respondent should immediately inform any actual or prospective employer of those restrictions and the reasons for their imposition. There would be liberty to apply to vary the above conditions.

The respondent admitted that from 2013 she had allowed a situation to arise whereby there was a retention in her firm’s office bank account of client monies received in the form of unpaid professional disbursements for periods in excess of two working days, leading to a minimum cash shortage of £79,124.78 in client account as at 12 July 2016 which was reduced to £6,918.83 by 16 June 2017, in breach of rules 6, 7, 17.1 (b)(ii) and 29.1 of the SRA Accounts Rules 2011 and principles 2, 6, 8 and 10 of the SRA Principles 2011.

She admitted that she had failed to meet her obligations as COFA to take all reasonable steps to ensure that the firm and its managers and employees complied with any obligations imposed upon them under the rules and had thereby breached rule 8.5(e)(i) of the SRA Authorisation Rules 2011.

She admitted that she had been reckless in failing to properly consider the monthly unreconciled office items report, which showed a large number of unrepresented cheques and in so acting she had failed to ensure that certain professional disbursements were paid out within two working days.

The parties invited the SDT to deal with the allegations against the respondent in accordance with a statement of agreed facts.

The SDT was satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that the respondent’s admissions were properly made.

The respondent had lacked integrity and acted recklessly. The only appropriate sanction was her immediate suspension from practice. It was absolutely necessary for the protection of the public to impose each of the conditions proposed, as the respondent’s failings were wide-ranging.

The respondent was ordered to pay costs of £15,000.

Blight Broad & Skinnard 

On Thursday 14 November 2019, the adjudication panel resolved to intervene into the recognised sole practice of Nicholas Peter William Skinnard, Blight Broad & Skinnard, of 1 George Place, Callington, Cornwall, PL17 7JH.

The grounds of intervention were: there was reason to suspect dishonesty on the part of Skinnard in connection with his practice (paragraph 1(1)(a)(i) of Schedule 1 to the Solicitors Act 1974); he has breached the SRA Principles 2011 and the SRA Accounts Rules 2011 (paragraph 1(1)(c) of Schedule 1 to the Solicitors Act 1974).

The intervention agent was Richard Portlock of Blake Morgan LLP, New Kings Court, Tollgate, Chandler’s Ford, Eastleigh SO53 3LG; tel: 02380 857270; email: interventions@blakemorgan.co.uk.

SDK Law

On 15 November 2019, the adjudication panel resolved to intervene into Steven David Kinch, practising as SDK Law, of 23 The Forum, 277 London Road, Burgess Hill, West Sussex RH15 9QU.

The grounds of intervention were: there was reason to suspect dishonesty on the part of Kinch in connection with his practice at SDK Law; Kinch had failed to comply with the SRA Principles 2011 and SRA Accounts Rules 2011.

James Dunn of Devonshires Solicitors LLP, 30 Finsbury Circus, London EC2M 7DT; tel: 0207 065 1830; email: intervention-team@devonshires.co.uk; has been appointed to act as the Society’s agent. The first date of attendance was 19 November 2019.

Kinch’s practising certificate was suspended as a result of the intervention decision.

Siu Yung Alan Ma and Taut-Yang Cheung (aka Daniel Cheung)

Application 11947-2019

Hearing 3-4 September 2019

Reasons 7 October 2019

The SDT ordered that the first respondent (admitted 1999) and the second respondent (admitted 2010) should each pay a fine of £17,500, and that they should each be subject to the following conditions for three years: that neither might (i) practise as a sole practitioner or sole manager or sole owner of an authorised or recognised body; (ii) be a compliance officer for legal practice or a compliance officer for finance and administration, with liberty to apply to vary those conditions.

The respondents, while in practice as partners of Maxwell Alves and/or as directors of Maxwell Alves LLP, while acting on behalf of client investors purchasing ‘off plan’ apartments at development A, had failed to ensure that the firm provided adequate advice to any or all of the investors, in breach of principles 4, 6 and 10 of the SRA Principles 2011.

The respondents, while acting on behalf of client investors purchasing ‘off plan’ apartments at development B, had failed to ensure that the firm did not release purchase monies before the architect’s certificate was available, in breach of principles 4, 6 and 10. 

The respondents had caused or permitted the firm to include an inappropriate limitation of liability clause in its retainer letters, in breach of principles 4 and 6, and outcome 1.8 of the SRA Code of Conduct 2011.

The second respondent alone had caused or permitted the firm to send a ‘Frustration Notice’ to clients which threatened to take the clients to court should the clients make a complaint against the firm, in breach of principles 4 and 6 and outcome 10.7. 

The tribunal found the misconduct of both respondents to have been very serious.

However, because the respondents had shown genuine insight, had made proper admissions and had taken steps to set matters right, the imposition of a fine on each of them was the appropriate sanction by which to protect the public.

The fines were equal in amount because although the second respondent had faced an additional allegation which might have served to increase the level of his fine, he had been more junior than the first respondent, who should have provided him with greater support and direction. 

Additional safeguards were also required to address the risk posed by both respondents. 

The respondents were each ordered to pay a fine of £22,000. 

Robert Metcalfe

Application 11954-2019

Admitted 2000

Hearing 16-20 September 2019

Reasons 14 October 2019

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

While in sole practice under the style of RMJ Solicitors (612988), the respondent had acted or purported to act for clients in relation to a number of investment schemes, loans or other transactions, which were dubious, risky or bore the hallmarks of early-release pension scams, in breach of principles 2, 4, 6 and 10 of the SRA Principles 2011. He had acted dishonestly.

He had acted in relation to the sale and purchase of shares in company PSL, in circumstances where such transactions were dubious, risky or bore the hallmarks of fraudulent financial arrangements, in breach of rules 14.5 and 29.2 of the SRA Accounts Rules 2011 and principles 2, 4, 6 and 10. He had acted dishonestly.

He had caused or allowed the firm’s client account to be used as a banking facility in the absence of an underlying legal transaction, for companies NRL, FSL and CBFS, in breach of rule 14.5 of the rules and principles 2 and 6. 

He had failed to keep accounting records properly written up in breach of rules 1.2(f), 29.1 and 29.2 of the rules and principle 10. 

He had failed adequately or at all to run the firm effectively and in accordance with proper governance and sound financial and risk management principles, in breach of principle 8. 

He had caused or allowed the firm to be held out as being accredited with or by the Law Society’s Conveyancing Quality Scheme when it was not so accredited, in breach of principles 2 and 6.

In his capacity as sole principal, compliance officer for finance and administration and compliance officer for legal practice at the firm, the respondent had failed to ensure compliance with the firm’s regulatory obligations under the rules, in breach of rule 8.5 of the SRA Authorisation Rules 2011 and principles 7, 8 and 10. 

The respondent’s misconduct was deliberate, calculated and repeated and had occurred over a period of time. His dishonest conduct had occurred in separate types of transaction in circumstances where he had turned a blind eye to the clear and obvious hallmarks of fraud.

He was ordered to pay costs of £30,573.

Jon Paul Else

Application 11929-2019

Hearing 1 October 2019

Reasons 28 October 2019

The SDT granted the applicant’s application for revocation of a section 43 order imposed on 14 December 2016, with effect from 1 October 2019. The applicant had admitted that he had been guilty of conduct of such a nature that in the opinion of the SRA it would be undesirable for him to be involved in a legal practice in one or more of the ways mentioned in section 43(1)(a) of the Solicitors Act 1974 (as amended). 

The circumstances surrounding the making of the section 43 order were unusual. The decision of the SDT in December 2016 had been by way of an agreed outcome. The SDT had noted the circumstances and the way that GS, a former partner who was subsequently suspended by the SDT, had run the firm. 

The applicant had self-reported the breaches in February 2013, but the disciplinary proceedings did not commence until May 2016. There had been a significant delay in progressing the matter and it could have been dealt with much sooner. Since those events there had been no evidence of any further breaches of the accounts rules or any other misconduct. The evidence demonstrated that the applicant’s conduct had been exemplary. 

The SDT took account of the approval of employment already granted by the SRA to the applicant and the fact that it had intended to rely on him as a witness of truth against GS. Taking into account all the evidence in the matter, it was no longer necessary for the level of regulatory control contained in a section 43 order to be imposed upon the applicant. 

The applicant was ordered to pay costs of £2,000.