Decisions filed recently with the Law Society (which may be subject to appeal)
Hearing 27 October 2021
Reasons 12 November 2021
The SDT ordered that the respondent should be struck off the roll.
While in practice at Janson Solicitors, Birmingham, the respondent had misused and/or failed to protect client money, thereby breaching rules 1.2 (a), 1.2(b), 1.2(c) and 20 of the SRA Accounts Rules 2011, and principles 2, 4, 6, 8 and 10 of the SRA Principles 2011. The respondent had acted dishonestly.
The respondent had failed fully to cooperate with the SRA, thereby failing to achieve outcome 10.6 of the SRA Code of Conduct 2011, and breaching principles 2, 6 and 7 of the 2011 Principles, paragraphs 7.3 and 7.4 of the SRA Code 2019, and principles 2 and 5 of the SRA Principles 2019.
The motivation for the respondent’s misconduct was a misguided attempt to deal with and respond to the financial difficulties faced by the firm.
In some cases, the delay caused to planned house purchases meant that clients had to pay additional rent in the interim and had been caused very substantial inconvenience and avoidable anxiety. The impact of delays in themselves was significant as were the lost opportunities of transactions which did not proceed. The system of conveyancing relied upon solicitors being trusted to hold deposits and to protect client money scrupulously. The reputational harm to the profession of a solicitor failing to protect and misusing client money was something which would have been obvious to the respondent.
The misconduct found proved was aggravated by the fact that the allegations included dishonest conduct.
The findings against the respondent, including dishonesty, required that the appropriate sanction was to strike him from the roll.
The respondent was ordered to pay costs of £35,469.
Joseph Gary Eloket
Hearing 9 November 2021
Reasons 18 November 2021
The SDT granted the applicant’s application for the determination of the indefinite suspension imposed on him on 12 October 2011, for abandoning his practice while practising on his own account. The SDT further ordered that he should be subject to the following conditions: that he 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; or (v) be a signatory on any client account, with liberty to apply.
The SDT was impressed by the significant progress the applicant had made since the suspension had been imposed. It was satisfied that he had reintegrated into legal professional life in an appropriate manner. He had demonstrated good judgement in the timing of his applications both to the Solicitors Regulation Authority and to the SDT.
He had provided strong evidence of his reformation of character and the good work he had undertaken during his suspension. The SDT had taken into account the testimonials supplied on the applicant’s behalf and noted that there had been no public objection to the termination of the suspension and that such a termination was supported by the SRA.
The SDT was satisfied that termination of the indefinite suspension would not undermine the profession in the eyes of public, but that indefinite restrictions should be imposed. The applicant would be at liberty to return to the SDT to vary or remove the restrictions. In order to do so, he would need to demonstrate what actions he had taken to negate the risk he posed.
The applicant was ordered to pay costs of £1,000.
Hearing 2 November 2021
Reasons 11 November 2021
The SDT ordered that respondent should be struck off the roll.
While practising as a solicitor at TWM Solicitors LLP, on or about 29 March 2016, the respondent had created (or caused the creation of) a compliments slip, from which the date had been deliberately removed, thereby breaching principles 2 and 6 of the SRA Principles 2011.
On or about the same date, under cover of the compliments slip, he had lodged an application purporting to be dated 18 March 2016 with the First Tier Property Tribunal, thereby breaching principles 2 and 6.
On or about 4 April 2016, he had created (or caused the creation of) a letter, backdated to 18 March 2016, which falsely and misleadingly purported to suggest that the application had been submitted to the tribunal on that earlier date (and therefore on time), when in fact it had not been. In doing so, he had breached principles 2 and 6.
On or about 26 April 2016 he had made, and thereafter lodged (or caused to be lodged) with the tribunal, a witness statement which had falsely and misleadingly purported to evidence all or any of the following: (i) that the application had been submitted to the tribunal on 18 March 2016 (and therefore on time), when in fact it had not been; (ii) that the covering letter had been created and printed on 18 March 2016, when in fact it had not been; (iii) that a manuscript note recording the application’s despatch to the tribunal had been made and logged on 18 March 2016, when in fact the application had not been despatched on that date, thereby breaching principles 1, 2 and 6. The respondent had acted dishonestly.
On dates between approximately 29 March and 10 June 2016 he had provided false and misleading information to any or all of the following, in relation to the date on which the application had been lodged with the tribunal: (i) his clients; (ii) his clients’ agent; (iii) the firm and its employees; (iv) counsel instructed by him; (v) the tribunal and its staff; and (vi) the Document Exchange, thereby breaching principles 1, 2, 4, 5 and 6. The respondent had acted dishonestly.
The parties had invited the SDT to deal with the allegations against the respondent in accordance with a statement of agreed facts and outcome.
It was a sad case but the misconduct was nevertheless at the highest end of seriousness.
No exceptional circumstances had been submitted or identified. The only appropriate sanction was that the respondent be struck off the roll.
The respondent was ordered to pay costs of £10,428.
Hearing 2 November 2021
Reasons 16 November 2021
The SDT ordered that the respondent should be struck off the roll.
While in practice as a partner at Rushton Legal Services Ltd, the respondent had failed to hold client money in a client account and had improperly benefited from holding client money in the firm’s business current account by virtue of the following: (i) the discharge of a negative balance in the sum of £2,219.88 on the firm’s business current account; (ii) the payment of the firm’s office overheads in the sum of £230.99, thereby breaching rules 1.2 (a), (b) and (c) and 14.1 of the SRA Accounts Rules 2011, and principles 2, 6 and 10 of the SRA Principles 2011. The respondent had acted dishonestly.
He had made improper withdrawals totalling £27,000 from the firm’s business current account which he used for his own benefit, thereby breaching principles 2, 6 and 10, and rules 7, 14.3, 17.2 and 20.1. The respondent had acted dishonestly.
He had sent a breakdown of charges to client A totalling £3,305.13 which was misleading as it included a cost of £1,875.13 with the narrative ‘Bank Interest for deposit and transfer @5% on £37,502.73’ when he had not incurred such cost, thereby breaching principles 2, 6 and 10. The respondent had acted dishonestly.
He had failed to ensure that a power of attorney for client A was properly executed in that he failed to attest the signature of client A while in his presence, thereby breaching principles 2, 4, 5 and 6, and failing to achieve outcomes 1.2 and 1.5 of the SRA Code of Conduct 2011. The respondent had acted dishonestly.
He had sent letters to client A which were misleading and intended to mislead, in breach of principles 2 and 6. The respondent had acted dishonestly.
He had failed to cooperate with his regulator, the SRA, by failing to respond fully to production notices issued by the SRA, under section 44B of the Solicitors Act 1974 (as amended), thereby breaching principle 7, and failing to achieve outcomes 10.6, 10.8 and 10.9.
The respondent had a very high level of culpability. There had been significant harm to the client, who was incarcerated.
The respondent’s dishonesty was a serious aggravating feature. The misconduct was at the highest level and the only appropriate sanction was a strike-off. There were no exceptional circumstances and the SDT therefore ordered that the respondent be struck off.
The respondent was ordered to pay costs of £21,827.
Cardinal Solicitors Ltd
On 24 December 2021, the Solicitors Regulation Authority intervened into the practice of Muhammad Tariq at Cardinal Solicitors Ltd and into the recognised body, Cardinal Solicitors Ltd of Rear of 38 London Road, Cobblestone Place, Croydon CR0 2TA.
The grounds of intervention into the practice of Tariq were:
- There was reason to suspect dishonesty on his part in connection with his practice as a solicitor – paragraph 1(1)(a)(i) Schedule 1, Part I, Solicitors Act 1974.
The grounds for intervention into Cardinal Solicitors Ltd were:
- There was reason to suspect dishonesty on the part of Tariq, as a manager of the firm, in connection with the firm’s business – paragraph 32(1)(d)(i) Schedule 2, Administration of Justice Act 1985.
Emma Porter of Shakespeare Martineau LLP, SHMA SRA Interventions, PO Box 18228, Birmingham B2 2HX; tel: 0300 247 2470; email: firstname.lastname@example.org has been appointed as the Society’s agent.
Tariq’s practising certificate has been suspended by reason of the intervention.
Roger Dean & Co
On 7 January 2022, the Adjudication Panel resolved to intervene into the above-named sole practice of Brian Nigel Sarney, at 134a Main Road, Biggin Hill, Westerham TN16 3BA, and at 423-425 Crofton Road, Orpington, Kent BR6 8NL.
The grounds of intervention were: there was reason to suspect dishonesty on the part of Sarney in connection with his practice at the firm; and Sarney had failed to comply with the rules made under sections 31 and 32 of the Solicitors Act 1974 (as amended).
The firm practised under the style of McNair Wilson Innes & Co at the Orpington office.
Michael Veal of Lester Aldridge LLP, Russell House, Oxford Road, Bournemouth BH8 8EX; tel: 01202 786341; email: Intervention.Enquiries@LA-Law.com has been appointed to act as the Society’s agent. The first date of attendance was 12 January 2022.