Decisions filed recently with the Law Society (which may be subject to appeal)
Peter Hobson Brothwell
Hearings 24-25 February and 7 April 2021
Reasons 26 May 2021
The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal ordered that the respondent should be struck off the roll.
While in practice as a sole practitioner at PH Brothwell and while in the position of compliance officer for legal practice and compliance officer for finance and administration, in respect of the administration of the estate of GGF deceased, the respondent had overcharged the estate by around £4,069.50, and had improperly raised six invoices totalling around £9,041, thereby breaching principles 2 and 6 of the SRA Principles 2011. He had acted dishonestly.
In dealing with the Department for Work and Pensions in respect of the administration of the estate of GGF deceased, the respondent had provided incomplete and/or inaccurate information in failing to notify the DWP of the sum in the region of £3,035 to £3,525.72 received in respect of an insurance payment for stolen jewellery, and had overstated the legal fees that the firm had incurred, thereby breaching principles 2 and 6. He had acted dishonestly.
The respondent had failed to correct the DWP in respect of the true position of the monies owed to it and had improperly accepted a settlement of £3,500, thereby breaching principles 2 and 6. He had acted dishonestly.
Having agreed a settlement with the DWP for £3,500 which stated that ‘if more assets are found they should be used to pay off the balance’, the respondent failed to notify the DWP of, or pay the DWP, the sum in the region of £3,035 to £3,525.72, thereby breaching principles 2 and 6. He had acted dishonestly.
The motivation for the respondent’s misconduct was personal financial gain. Given his role as executor, trustee and residuary beneficiary, the respondent had been in a position of heightened trust. He had a high degree of culpability.
GGF, the DWP and the public purse had been harmed. The misconduct was aggravated by the fact that the allegations included four findings of dishonest conduct.
The allegations all arose out of a single administration in a career which had extended over 40 years, but there had been a multitude of failures in that single administration.
No exceptional factors were present such that the normal penalty was not appropriate.
The respondent was ordered to pay costs of £25,000.
Jonathan Andrew Simon
Hearing 13 May 2021
Reasons 27 May 2021
The SDT ordered that the respondent should be suspended from practice for 24 months from 13 May 2021.
Upon the expiry of that fixed term of suspension, the respondent should be subject to the conditions that he might not (i) practise as a manager or owner of any authorised or recognised body; (ii) act as a compliance officer for legal practice or compliance officer for finance and administration for any authorised or recognised body; hold or receive client money, or act as a signatory to any client or office account or have the power to authorise transfers from any client or office account; or practise on his own account under regulation 10.2(a) or 10.2(b) of the SRA Authorisation of Individuals Regulations, with liberty to either party to apply to vary those conditions.
While in practice at J A Simon & Co Ltd, the respondent had failed adequately to remedy breaches of the SRA Accounts Rules 2011, including:
(i) failing to maintain proper accounting systems or proper internal control of those systems or proper accounting records, contrary to rules 1.2(e) and 1.2 (f) of the accounts rules, in that he had not retained any (or any adequate) accounting records for the period 2012 to 2016, contrary to rule 29.17 of the rules, and between 2016 to 2020. He had not kept proper accounting records to show the position with regard to the money held for each client, contrary to rules 29.1 and 29.2 of the rules;
(ii) failing to return client money to the client promptly, or to inform clients of client money retained by the firm, contrary to rules 14.3 and 14.4 of the rules;
(iii) failing to pay out promptly legacies to the beneficiaries of estates;
(iv) failing to ensure adequate client account reconciliation, contrary to rules 29.1, 29.13 and 29.14 of the rules, thereby breaching rule 7.1 of the rules and principles 6, 7, 8 and 10 of the SRA Principles 2011.
The parties invited the SDT to deal with the allegations against the respondent in accordance with a statement of agreed facts and proposed outcome.
The SDT was satisfied on the balance of probabilities that the respondent’s admissions had been properly made.
While the respondent’s conduct was not malicious or dishonest, the maintenance of accurate accounts was a vitally important responsibility in which the respondent had failed to a very significant degree over an extended period of time.
The SDT, having determined that the proposed sanction was appropriate and proportionate, granted the application for matters to be resolved by way of the agreed outcome.
The respondent was ordered to pay costs of £12,000.