Decisions filed recently with the Law Society (which may be subject to appeal)
Hearing 3 July 2023
Reasons 17 August 2023
The SDT dismissed the applicant’s application for review of a section 43 order made by an adjudicator of the respondent on 27 September 2013.
A single adjudicator at the SRA had made an order against the applicant dated 27 September 2013 pursuant to section 43(2) of the Solicitors Act 1974. An Adjudication Panel had heard the applicant’s appeal against that order on 11 December 2017. The panel had dealt with the matter afresh and had upheld the original decision.
The panel had found that the applicant had (i) favoured the interests of his client Mrs B over those of his client Mr B, Mrs B’s husband; and (ii) had failed to act in Mr B’s best interests when transferring to Mrs B £20,000 from Mr B’s share of the sale proceeds of a jointly owned property and £80,000 from his personal bank account.
The applicant sought to challenge the conclusions of primary fact made by the panel and submitted that the SRA had not investigated sufficiently to show that the applicant had acted appropriately in the circumstances.
The SDT considered that the applicant was labouring under a misconception as to the issues which had been in play before the panel.
The panel had not been considering the morality or rights and wrongs of matters between Mr and Mrs B, but rather a question fundamental to professional conduct, namely whether the applicant had favoured Mrs B’s interests over those of Mr B.
The panel had found that on the applicant’s own account he had transferred £20,000 from Mr B’s share of the sale proceeds and £80,000 from Mr B’s personal bank accounts and in so doing he favoured the interests of one client over another.
The panel had heard the applicant’s explanation as to why he was equalising Mr and Mrs B’s assets. However, that was not his decision to make and if he had believed there had been serious wrongdoing by Mr B he should immediately have ceased to act for Mr B and referred the matter to the police. Instead, he had continued to act for both Mr and Mrs B, taking Mr B’s money and paying it to Mrs B.
The findings of facts and the conclusions made by the panel, i.e. that the applicant had not acted in the best interest of each client, and had not protected Mr B’s money were not unreasonable and not outside the bounds within which reasonable disagreement was possible. The tribunal dismissed his application for review.
The applicant was ordered to pay costs of £2,943.
Hearing 19 July 2023
Reasons 10 August 2023
The SDT ordered that the respondent should be struck off the roll.
Between 17 July 2017 and 28 September 2022, the respondent had requested and received money from clients for legal services, by bank transfer into his personal bank account and in cash, which he had failed to pay into a client account or return to the client, thereby breaching rules 1.2(a), (b), (c), 14.1 and 14.3 of the SRA Accounts Rules 2011; principles 2, 4 and 6 of the SRA Principles 2011; rules 2.3, 2.4 and 2.5 of the SRA Accounts Rules 2019 and principles 2, 5 and 7 of the SRA Principles 2019.
Between 17 July 2017 and 28 September 2022, he had accepted instructions and funds from clients for legal work that was never undertaken by him, thereby breaching outcome 1.5 of the SRA Code of Conduct 2011; principles 4 and 6 of the SRA Principles 2011; paragraph 3.2 of the SRA Code of Conduct for Solicitors, RELs and RFLs and principles 2 and 7 of the SRA Principles 2019.
Between 13 April 2021 and 17 July 2021, he had failed to disclose the existence of clients he had been instructed to act for to Julia & Rana Solicitors and had failed to maintain case records for those clients when he was under a contractual duty to do so, dishonestly intending by those failures to make a gain for himself or cause a loss to Julia & Rana Solicitors, thereby breaching principles 4 and 5 of the SRA Principles 2019.
The parties had invited the SDT to deal with the allegations against the respondent in accordance with a statement of agreed facts and outcome.
Given the respondent’s admission to allegations of dishonesty and absent any exceptional circumstances advanced by him or evident on the face of the papers, the SDT was satisfied that the proposed outcome of striking him from the roll was both reasonable and proportionate in all of the circumstances.
The respondent was ordered to pay costs of £1,000.