Decisions filed recently with the Law Society (which may be subject to appeal)
Hearings 10-11 August, 27 September 2021
Reasons 27 October 2021
The SDT ordered that the respondent should be struck off the roll.
While in practice as the sole equity owner and solicitor at Elliotts Solicitors, between 7 September 2017 and 3 January 2020, the respondent had made improper withdrawals from client account and/or caused a shortage on client account of at least £8,589.53, thereby breaching rules 7.1, 17 and 20.1 of the Solicitors Accounts Rules 2011 (prior to 25 November 2019); rules 5.1 and 6 of the Accounts Rules 2019 (from 25 November 2019); principles 2, 6 and 10 of the SRA Principles 2011 (prior to 25 November 2019); principles 2 and 5 of the SRA Principles 2019 (from 25 November 2019), and the Code of Conduct for Solicitors, RELs and RFLs 2019, 4.2 (after 25 November 2019). She had acted dishonestly.
Between 10 August 2018 and 24 March 2020 the respondent had failed to discharge her clients’ liabilities to HMRC in relation to SDLT payments, thereby breaching rule 7.1 of the Solicitors Accounts Rules 2011 (prior to 25 November 2019); rule 6 of the Accounts Rules 2019 (from 25 November 2019); principles 2, 4, 6 and 10 of the SRA Principles 2011 (prior to 25 November 2019); and principles 2 and 7 of the SRA Principles 2019 (from 25 November 2019). She had acted dishonestly.
On 4 December 2019, the respondent had inappropriately presented to an SRA investigation officer a client account balance which purported to demonstrate that the firm had sufficient client monies, thereby breaching principles 2, 4 and 6 of the SRA Principles 2019 (from 25 November 2019). She had acted dishonestly.
Between 2015 and 24 March 2020 the respondent had failed to keep books of account, thereby breaching rule 29.1, 29.2, 29.4, 29.11 and 29.12 of the Solicitors Accounts Rules 2011 (prior to 25 November 2019); rule 8 of the Accounts Rules 2019 (from 25 November 2019); principles 4 and 6 of the SRA Principles 2011 (prior to 25 November 2019); and principles 2 and 7 of the SRA Principles 2019 (from 25 November 2019).
Between 30 September 2019 and 24 March 2020, the respondent had failed to have in place valid professional indemnity insurance, thereby breaching rules 4, 5.1 and 5.2 of the SRA Indemnity Rules 2013 (prior to 25 November 2019); rules 2 and 4.1 of the SRA Indemnity Insurance Rules 2019 (from 25 November 2019); principles 4 and 6 of the SRA Principles 2011 (prior to 25 November 2019); and principles 2 and 7 of the SRA Principles 2019 (from 25 November 2019).
The seriousness of the respondent’s misconduct was at the highest level, and in light of that and the three findings of deliberate, repeated and calculated dishonesty between September 2017 and March 2020, the protection of the public and the reputation of the legal profession required that her name be struck off the roll.
The respondent was ordered to pay costs of £16,500.
Harjit Singh Kang
Hearing 4 October 2021
Reasons 20 October 2021
The SDT ordered that the applicant’s application for the removal of the conditions imposed by the SDT on 22 August 2017 should be refused, with liberty to apply.
In February 2012 the applicant had been suspended from practice indefinitely, but in August 2017 the SDT had ordered that this indefinite suspension be lifted subject to conditions.
In July 2020, the SRA had granted the applicant’s application for a practising certificate for 2019/20 subject to only one condition, namely that he could not be a manager or owner of an authorised body as he ‘is unsuitable at present to discharge the roles and responsibilities expected of a manager or owner of an authorised body’.
In July 2021, he applied to the SDT to terminate and/or vary the conditions imposed in August 2017.
The respondent had adopted a neutral position to the application.
It was accepted that there was no evidence that the applicant had not complied with the conditions imposed upon him in 2017 and that since then there had been no further disciplinary or regulatory issues recorded against him.
However, the question was whether the applicant had demonstrated sufficiently that he had rehabilitated himself and that if the conditions were to be removed in whole or in part the public would be protected from risk. He had not addressed the fundamental issue as to whether he would be a risk to the public by managing and running his own firm, as he had indicated he wished to do some time in the unspecified future.
There was a difference and distinction between being a good solicitor and a competent manager and head of a legal practice. The conditions had been imposed upon the applicant to protect the public and the reputation of the profession with respect to the risks associated with the applicant running his own firm.
The applicant had said that he had been too busy to enrol on and complete the courses in relation to managing and owning a law firm as he had been advised to do by the SRA.
His promise to complete such courses in the event that the conditions were removed was not the same as actually having done the courses, and then presenting that evidence to the SDT to satisfy it that he had the requisite skills and competence to run a firm and supervise staff. In the absence of such evidence his application was premature.
The applicant was ordered to pay costs of £1,456.
Hearing 24 September 2021
Reasons 22 October 2021
The SDT ordered that the respondent should pay a fine of £24,000, and that he should be subject to the following conditions: that he might not (i) act as head of legal practice/compliance officer for legal practice or head of finance and administration/compliance officer for finance and administration; (ii) hold client money other than with leave of the SRA; or (iii) act as a signatory on any client account other than with leave of the SRA, with liberty to apply to vary those conditions.
While in practice as an associate solicitor at Capital Law Limited, between 18 December 2013 and 21 November 2016, the respondent had caused or allowed payments into and out of the firm’s client account, other than in respect of an underlying legal transaction, and in doing so had provided banking facilities through the firm’s client account in breach of (in relation to the period from 21 November 2014 onwards only) principle 2 of the SRA Principles 2011, and in relation to the whole of the period between 18 December 2013 and 21 November 2016, principle 6 and rule 14.5 of the SRA Accounts Rules 2011. His conduct was reckless.
He had allowed client funds to remain in the firm’s client account when they should have been returned to the client as soon as there was no longer any proper reason to retain those funds, thereby breaching principle 6 and rule 14.3.
The parties had invited the SDT to deal with the allegations against the respondent in accordance with a statement of agreed facts and proposed outcome.
The SDT had reviewed all the material before it and was satisfied on the balance of probabilities that the respondent’s admissions had been properly made.
The respondent was an experienced solicitor specialising in corporate transactional work and had had notice of the risks involved in allowing a banking facility to be provided. The harm caused by such conduct to the reputation of the profession was significant. The misconduct, which had included an admitted failure to act with integrity aggravated by recklessness, was very serious.
The appropriate sanction in the matter was a financial penalty coupled with indefinite restrictions preventing the respondent having direct control of client money or acting in a compliance role in relation to legal practice or finance and administration.
The respondent was ordered to pay costs of £22,000.
On 9 November 2021, the SRA intervened into the recognised sole practice of Barry Delaney, CDI Legal, formerly of 29 Bridgford Road, West Bridgford, Nottingham NG2 6AU. The grounds of intervention were:
- Delaney had failed to comply with rules made under sections 31 and 32 of the Solicitors Act 1974 (Schedule 1, Part I, paragraph 1(1)(c) of the Solicitors Act 1974).
- It was necessary to intervene to protect the interests of clients or former clients and any beneficiaries of any trust of which Delaney is or was a trustee (Schedule 1, Part I, paragraph 1(1)(m) of the Solicitors Act 1974).
John Owen of Gordons LLP, 1 New Augustus Street, Bradford BD1 5LL; tel: 0113 227 0364; email: firstname.lastname@example.org; has been appointed as the Society’s agent.
Delaney’s practising certificate has been suspended as a result of the intervention.
Hearing 4 October 2021
Reasons 18 October 2021
The SDT ordered that the respondent should pay a fine of £15,000. It also ordered that he should be subject to the condition that he might not be a head of legal practice/compliance officer for legal practice or a head of finance and administration/compliance officer for finance and administration, with liberty to apply to vary that condition.
While in practice as a solicitor and sole principal at Liberty Law UK Limited, the respondent had made an inappropriate payment of £42,000 out of the firm’s client account, thereby breaching principles 2, 6 and 10 of the SRA Principles 2011. He had acted with manifest incompetence.
He had caused or allowed the firm’s client bank account to be used as a banking facility in breach of principle 6 and rule 14.5 of the SRA Accounts Rules 2011.
He had breached a written undertaking to return the sum of £42,500, paid as a deposit on the purchase of a property, within two to three days of the undertaking, thereby breaching rule 1.3 of the Code of Conduct for Solicitors, RELs and RFLs 2019 (the Code) and principle 2 of the SRA Principles 2019.
The parties invited the SDT to deal with the allegations against the respondent in accordance with a statement of agreed facts and outcome, submitting that the outcome proposed was consistent with the SDT’s Guidance Note on Sanctions (8th Edition).
The breach of an undertaking was known by the profession to be inherently serious and something which tarnished the reputation of the profession as a whole. However, this had been an isolated incident which was unlikely to be repeated. The respondent had been an inexperienced conveyancer and his case was a warning to the profession of the dangers of a solicitor stepping outside the area of his or her expertise without first obtaining the necessary experience to discharge their professional duty with competence. It also opened the solicitor to the risk of being used as an unwitting instrument to facilitate fraud or other associated criminal activity.
A fine of £15,000 (at the top end of Level 3), coupled with a restriction preventing the respondent from being a head of legal practice/compliance officer for legal practice or a head of finance and administration/compliance officer for finance and administration, was an appropriate and proportionate sanction by which to maintain public confidence in the profession and to mark the level of the admitted misconduct.
The respondent was ordered to pay costs of £14,500.
Hearings 23 August, 4 October 2021
Reasons 18 October 2021
The SDT ordered that the respondent should be struck off the roll.
While in practice as a solicitor at Carpenters Limited, the respondent had on nine occasions used a parking device, namely a disabled badge (Blue Badge), with intent to deceive, resulting in his conviction at Lewes Crown Court of three counts of using a parking device with intent to deceive, contrary to section 115(1) of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 for which he was sentenced, among other things, to a fine of £1,500.
The respondent had therefore breached principles 2 and 6 of the SRA Principles 2011, and his conduct was dishonest. The respondent’s motivation had been laziness rather than financial. The offences had been planned and the trust of the public had been undermined. While no harm had been caused to any individual, there had been harm to the reputation of the profession on account of the respondent having committed a criminal offence of dishonesty. The misconduct had been aggravated by the dishonesty, and the fact that the offences had been deliberate, calculated and had continued over a period of time. The nature of the offence was such that concealment was an integral part of it. The misconduct was mitigated by the fact that the respondent had self-reported and cooperated fully with the SRA’s investigation. He had made admissions at an early stage, albeit he had backed away from some of those admissions during his evidence. He had a previously unblemished career.
The circumstances, though unfortunate, were not exceptional. The repeated nature of the offending and the limited insight demonstrated by the respondent had led to the conclusion that there was nothing that would justify a lesser sanction than a strike-off.
He was ordered to pay costs of £1,000.
Gareth Rowan Evans
Hearing 14 October 2021
Reasons 29 October 2021
The SDT ordered that the respondent should be struck off the roll. While in practice as a solicitor at Slater and Gordon UK Limited, by arranging that the following payments be made from the firm’s client account and recorded against the ledger of client H: (i) to client G in the sum of £17,000 on 18 April 2016; and (ii) to client P in the sum £4,661.75 on 6 September 2016, the respondent had misused client money and thereby breached principles 2, 6 and 10 of the SRA Principles 2011 and rules 1.2(c) and 20.1 of the SRA Accounts Rules 2011. His conduct was dishonest.
The respondent had misled client H by: (i) failing to advise her that her personal injury claims had settled on 8 March 2016 for the sum of £45,000; and (ii) by providing the impression to client H that her personal injury claim remained ongoing by continuing to engage with her about her claim and arranging further medical appointments for her under the guise that those were to obtain evidence in support of her claim, thereby breaching principles 2 and 6 and failing to achieve outcomes 1.1 and 1.12 of the SRA Code of Conduct 2011. His conduct was dishonest.
The respondent had failed to act in the best interests of client H and/or failed to provide her with a proper standard of service by: (i) failing to comply with court directions issued on 28 August 2014 and 23 March 2015, leading to an application for relief from sanction being required and a subsequent application that the matter be struck out; (ii) failing to advise or take instructions in relation to the need to apply for relief from sanction and the application that the matter be struck out; (iii) failing to seek client instructions before serving documents, including the medical report served on 16 July 2015 and schedule of costs served on 14 October 2015; and (iv) failing to seek client H’s instructions before settling the claim by way of a consent order dated 8 March 2016, thereby breaching principles 4 and 5 and failing to achieve outcome 1.2 of the code, and acting in a manner which was manifestly incompetent in breach of principle 6.
The respondent had dishonestly misled his client by giving her the impression that her claim was ongoing, when it had, in fact, been settled. His misconduct was extremely serious. The proportionate sanction was to strike the respondent from the roll.
He was ordered to pay costs of £2,300.