• Application 11598-2017 
  • Hearing 26 March 2018
  • Reasons 13 April 2018

The SDT ordered that the first respondent (admitted 1999) should be struck off the roll.

It further ordered that as from 26 March 2018, except in accordance with Law Society permission, no solicitor should employ or remunerate the second respondent in connection with their practice as a solicitor; no employee of a solicitor should employ or remunerate the second respondent in connection with the solicitor’s practice; no recognised body should employ or remunerate the second respondent; no manager or employee of a recognised body should employ or remunerate the second respondent in connection with the business of that body; no recognised body or manager or employee of such a body should permit the second respondent to be a manager of the body; and no recognised body or manager or employee of such a body should permit the second respondent to have an interest in the body.

The first respondent had facilitated, permitted or acquiesced in the improper transfers of money from client account to office account, in breach of rule 20.1 of the SRA Accounts Rules 2011 and principle 2 of the SRA Principles 2011. He had acted dishonestly.

He had failed to remedy breaches of the rules promptly on discovery in breach of rule 7.1 thereof.

He had failed to run his business or carry out his role in the business effectively and in accordance with proper governance and sound financial and risk management principles, thereby breaching principle 8.

The second respondent, who was not a solicitor and who was employed by the first respondent’s practice, had been guilty of conduct of such a nature that in the opinion of the SRA it would be undesirable for her to be employed by a solicitor in connection with his or her practice as a solicitor in that she had facilitated, permitted or acquiesced in the improper transfers of money from client account to office account, thereby breaching rule 20.1 of the rules. She had acted dishonestly.

The first respondent’s culpability was at the highest level and was higher than that of the second respondent. He had misused the client account to prop up the firm.

The first respondent had left his moral compass at home and the level of harm caused was high. While he might not have intended the harm, it was reasonably foreseeable given the financial liabilities of the firm. He had taken advantage of the second respondent.

The first respondent’s misconduct was at the highest level of seriousness, and the only appropriate sanction was for his name to be struck off the roll.

The second respondent had made the payments. Her case had been that she was compelled to make them by the first respondent. However, she knew what she was doing was wrong. She had been a legal cashier for over 25 years so had a significant level of experience.

The second respondent’s culpability was high but not at the highest end of matters that came before the SDT. It was increased due to her role at the firm, the fact she had made the payments and her level of experience.

The appropriate sanction in respect of the second respondent was an order under section 43 of the Solicitors Act 1974.

The first respondent was ordered to pay costs of £17,080; the second respondent was ordered to pay costs of £1,897.