Decisions filed recently with the Law Society (which may be subject to appeal)
Parvez Anwar and Umran Aziz
Hearing 26 February 2019
Reasons 4 April 2019
The SDT ordered that the respondents (both admitted 2008) should each pay a fine of £10,000.
By permitting/making payments from the firm’s client account for disbursements when there were insufficient funds in the client account; and permitting/making incorrect payments from the client account to the office account in relation to costs, the respondents had caused a minimum cash shortage of £2,023.01, thereby breaching principles 6, 8 and 10 of the SRA Principles 2011 and rule 20.9 of the SRA Accounts Rules 2011.
By failing correctly to carry out proper reconciliations of the client account, meaning that shortages were not properly shown, they had breached principles 6, 8 and 10, and rules 29.1, 29.12 and 29.14 of the 2011 rules.
By not posting bills and paid disbursements to the office account ledger they had caused a credit to its office account of £87,153.60, thereby failing to keep properly written up accounting records at all times, in breach of rules 29.1, and 29.4 of the 2011 rules.
They had caused or permitted payments of prohibited referral fees in contravention of section 56 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO) to a minimum value of £7,560, thereby breaching principles 2, 6 and 7 and failing to achieve outcomes 9.2 and 9.8 of the SRA Code of Conduct 2011.
They had failed to provide their clients with accurate information regarding the financial or other interests which introducers had in referring clients to the firm, thereby breaching principles 4, 5 and 6 and failing to achieve outcomes 9.2, 9.3 and 9.4.
The first respondent had failed adequately to carry out his role as a compliance officer for finance and administration (COFA), thereby breaching rule 8.5(e) of the SRA Authorisation Rules 2011.
The second respondent had failed adequately to carry out his role as a compliance officer for legal practice (COLP), thereby breaching rule 8.5(c) of the Authorisation Rules.
The breaches of the Accounts Rules were primarily the result of sloppiness. The breaches of LASPO were not done with specific intent and had not involved a breach of trust.
There had been no loss to any individual clients. The respondents had made good the shortages on the client account and had taken steps to ensure future compliance. There was no significant insight on the part of either respondent.
The seriousness of the misconduct was such that the appropriate sanction was a financial penalty. The culpability and harm was the same in respect of each respondent.
The respondents were ordered to pay costs of £11,800 on a joint and several basis.
Michael David Collier
Hearing 9 May 2019
Reasons 17 May 2019
The SDT ordered that the respondent should be struck off the roll.
While in practice as a sole practitioner at Collier Law Solicitors the respondent had made improper transfers from the firm’s client account to the office account in respect of any or all of client matters 1-8 and had improperly used those monies for his own business and/or personal purposes, in breach of rules 1.02, 1.04 and 1.06 of the Solicitors Code of Conduct 2007; principles 2, 4, 6 and 10 of the SRA Principles 2011; rules l(b), l(d), 19.2 and 22.1 of the Solicitors Accounts Rules 1998; and rules 1.2(a), 1.2(c), 17.2 and 20.1 of the SRA Accounts Rules 2011.
He had sought to disguise the improper transfers of client monies by creating and/or providing false estate accounts to clients and/or beneficiaries for any or all of client matters 1, 2, 4, 5 and 6 in breach of rules 1.02 and 1.06 of the 2007 code and principles 2 and 6.
He had made false representation/s to the SRA that the repayment of a loan of £40,000 to his firm from the client account had been repaid following a tax refund, when in fact the loan had been repaid following a third party loan; that he had brought the firm’s finances ‘on to an even keel’ when in fact there was a minimum cash shortage of over £200,000 which he was unable to pay; and that he was not aware of any misuse of client funds when he was so aware, in breach of principles 2, 6 and 7 of the SRA Principles.
He 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. The SDT was satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that the respondent’s admissions were properly made, and that the proposed agreed outcome was proportionate to the respondent’s misconduct and was necessary for the protection of the public and the reputation of the profession.
The respondent was ordered to pay costs of £19,219.
Hearing 24 April 2019
Reasons 16 May 2019
The SDT ordered that the applicant’s application for restoration to the roll be refused.
On 2 May 1995 the applicant was struck off the roll having been found guilty of conduct unbefitting a solicitor in that he had failed to maintain properly written up books of account contrary to rule 11 of the Solicitors Accounts Rules 1986; he had placed his own funds in client account contrary to rule 6 of the 1986 rules; he had used client funds for his own purposes; and he had drawn or caused or permitted to be drawn, monies from client account otherwise than in accordance with rule 7 of the 1986 rules, contrary to rule 8 thereof.
The applicant applied for restoration to the roll.
The applicant had not been struck off for dishonesty. The question was whether the public’s confidence in the profession as a whole would be shaken. The matters leading to the applicant’s strike-off had been serious. The Compensation Fund had paid £73,000 arising from the breaches at the time of that hearing.
The period since the applicant had been struck off was considerable. However during that time he had worked without approval of the SRA on two occasions and had failed to disclose to M & Co Solicitors that he was a struck-off solicitor, resulting in a criminal conviction in 2008.
The applicant had not demonstrated rehabilitation; indeed he had shown a reckless disregard for the rules on more than one occasion.
The applicant’s charitable work was commendable and he had clearly provided services to the community. However, the SDT was not satisfied that it was appropriate to restore him to the roll.
The respondent was ordered to pay costs of £1,772.
Howlett Clarke Solicitors
On 7 May 2019, the adjudication panel resolved to intervene into the above-named firm, formerly based at 96 Church Street, Brighton BN1 1UJ. The firm entered into administration on 22 February.
The intervention grounds were: there had been a relevant insolvency event in relation to the firm; it was necessary to intervene to protect the interests of clients or former clients of the firm.
Karen Thompson of Lester Aldridge LLP, Russell House, Oxford Road, Bournemouth BH8 8EX, tel: 01202 786341, DX: 7623 Bournemouth, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, has been appointed to act as the Society’s agent.
The first date of attendance was 10 May 2019.
On 16 May 2019, the adjudication panel intervened into the recognised body Sterlingking Ltd and into the practice of Jasbinder Sohal at Sterlingking Ltd, 7 Northumberland Street, Huddersfield HD1 1RL.
The grounds for intervention into Mr Sohal’s practice were: there was reason to suspect dishonesty on his part in connection with his practice – paragraph 1(1)(a)(i) schedule 1, part I Solicitors Act 1974; he had failed to comply with the SRA Principles 2011 which are rules made under section 31 of the act – paragraph 1(1)(c) schedule 1, part I of the act.
The grounds for intervention into Sterlingking Ltd were: there was reason to suspect dishonesty on Sohal’s part, a manager of the firm, in connection with its business – paragraph 32(1)(d)(i) schedule 2, Administration of Justice Act 1985 (as amended); Sohal, as a manager of the firm, and the firm have failed to comply with the SRA Principles 2011 which are rules applicable to them under section 9 of the Administration of Justice Act 1985 – paragraph 1(1)(a) schedule 2 of the 1985 act.
Sohal’s practising certificate is automatically suspended as a result of the intervention.
Sean Joyce of Stephensons, Wigan Investment Centre, Waterside Drive, Wigan WN3 5BA, tel 0333 344 4776, email: email@example.com, has been appointed to act as the Society’s agent.