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

Robert Bingham and Ryan Bingham

Application 12211-2021

Hearing 15 October 2021

Reasons 3 November 2021

The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal ordered that the first respondent (admitted 1984) should pay a fine of £7,600. In respect of the second respondent (unadmitted) it ordered that as from 15 October 2021 except in accordance with Law Society permission: (i) no solicitor should employ or remunerate the second respondent in connection with their practice; (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.

While in practice as a solicitor and director of Robert Bingham Limited, by making 13 withdrawals totalling £103,650 from monies belonging to his client, A, being held on the firm’s client account, without written authority to do so, the first respondent had breached principles 5 and 6 of the SRA Principles 2011, and rule 20.1 of the SRA Accounts Rules 2011.

By improperly transferring £27,352 from the monies being held on behalf of client A in the firm’s client account into the firm’s office account, without forwarding a copy of the purported bill produced by him to client A, he had breached principles 4, 5 and 6, and rule 17.2 of the rules.

By causing or allowing withdrawals with a minimum value of £1,474.22 and a maximum value of £4,392.92 to be withdrawn from the personal bank account of client A otherwise than in the proper exercise of his powers under an enduring power of attorney, he had breached principles 4, 5, 6 and 10.

While employed as a paralegal at the firm, by making withdrawals in the minimum sum of £1,474.22 and the maximum sum of £4,392.92 from the personal account of client A in circumstances where he was not entitled to do so, the second respondent had breached principle 6.

The parties had invited the SDT to deal with the allegations against the respondents in accordance with a statement of agreed facts and outcome.

The misconduct had arisen from a particular set of circumstances which had contributed to the first respondent eliding his professional duties to client A with his friendship and familiarity with client A. The case represented the dangers of a solicitor falling foul of own interest conflicts.

The first and second respondents had acted without the objectivity and scrupulousness which the public would expect of a solicitor, and those who worked under a solicitor’s supervision, to maintain in their dealings with client money entrusted to them.

The SDT took into consideration that client A had had the benefit of independent advice with respect to gifts he had made and that the first and second respondents had repaid the money.

A fine of £7,600 for the first respondent was an appropriate and proportionate sanction by which to maintain public confidence in the profession and to mark the level of his admitted misconduct.

An order preventing the second respondent from being employed in legal practice save with the applicant’s permission was appropriate.

The respondents were ordered to pay costs of £27,000 on the basis of joint and several liability.

Ashley Stanton Singer

Application 12214-2021

Admitted 1996

Hearing 29-30 September 2021

Reasons 9 November 2021

The SDT ordered that the respondent should pay a fine of £1,500. 

While acting for clients WEL and KAW, the respondent had purported to serve medical reports on the defendants when he should have known that no such reports existed at the time, and in doing so he had acted in breach of principle 6 of the SRA Principles 2011.

The respondent’s motivation was a wish to progress his clients’ cases in circumstances where he was under pressure to keep up with his billing targets. While there had been no obvious personal benefit to him, he had ‘taken his eye off the ball’.

There was no evidence that his misconduct had been planned, and no suggestion that it had involved a breach of trust. The respondent’s culpability was low.

While there had been a theoretical risk that the defendants could have been misled, there was no finding that they had been misled. The harm had been limited in scope and nature and there was no evidence of direct harm to any member of the public.

The level of harm caused was low, the respondent had not been dishonest, there had been no criminal findings, and no attempt by the respondent to conceal his conduct or to place the blame on others. No previous disciplinary findings had been recorded against him and hitherto he had had an unblemished career.

In all the circumstances, a fine at the top end of Level 1 of the Indicative Fine Bands for conduct assessed as sufficiently serious to justify a fine (rather than a reprimand) would be fair and proportionate.

The respondent was ordered to pay costs of £5,000.