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

Ashfaque Uddin Ahmed

Application 11800-2018

Admitted 2002

Hearing 10-11 December 2019

Reasons 23 December 2019

The SDT ordered that the respondent should be suspended from practice for two years from 11 December 2019. Upon the expiry of that term of suspension the respondent should, for three years, be subject to the following conditions. He might not:

(i) practise as a sole practitioner or sole manager or sole owner of an authorised or recognised body; or as a freelance solicitor; or as a solicitor in an unregulated organisation;

(ii) be a head of legal practice/compliance officer for legal practice or a head of finance and administration/compliance officer for finance and administration; be a signatory on any client account; with liberty to either party to apply to vary the conditions.

After £141,785.02 of client money had been received into the client account of the respondent’s firm, he had misappropriated or failed to prevent the misappropriation of a minimum of £138,155.78 from that client account, thereby breaching principles 2, 6 and 10 of the SRA Principles 2011 and rules 1.2(c) and 20.1 of the SRA Accounts Rules 2011.

He had failed to comply with an undertaking (in relation to the £141,785.02 referred to above) thereby breaching principles 2 and 6 and failing to achieve outcomes 1.2 and 11.2 of the SRA Code of Conduct 2011.

He had failed to properly and safely retain control of confidential client documentation and accounting records, thereby breaching principles 4, 7 and 8, failing to achieve outcome 4.1 and breaching rules 29.17 and 31.1 of the 2011 rules.

He had failed to provide to the SRA accountant’s reports for his firm for the period covering 1 November 2013 to when the firm closed on 30 or 31 December 2014, in breach of principle 7 and rules 32.1 and 33.5 of the 2011 rules.

The respondent’s misconduct was the result of ineptitude and incompetence. It arose out of his inability to run the firm and his failure to take control of and monitor his client account.

His culpability for the misconduct was high and the harm caused by his conduct was significant.

Nicholas Paul Tsioupras

Application 11977-2019

Admitted 2000

Hearing 8 November 2019

Reasons 7 January 2020

The SDT ordered that the respondent should be struck off the roll.

The respondent had made improper withdrawals from the firm’s client account totalling £415,221, which had caused a minimum cash shortage on client account and had caused client bank account to become overdrawn, in breach of rules 17.7, 20.1, 20.6 and 20.9 of the Solicitors Accounts Rules 2011 and principles 2, 4, 6 and 10 of the SRA Principles 2011. The respondent had acted dishonestly.

He had failed to keep accounting records properly written up to show dealings with client and office money and had failed to appropriately record all dealings with client money on client ledgers in breach of rules 29.1 and 29.2 of the 2011 rules.

He had failed to comply with his legal and regulatory obligations and deal with his regulator in an open, timely and cooperative manner during the period June 2018 to December 2018 by failing to cooperate with or engage with the SRA during the forensic inspection of his firm, effect an orderly and transparent wind down of activities, including informing the SRA before the firm closed, and respond promptly or at all to communications sent to him by the SRA, thereby breaching principles 2, 4, 6 and 7 and failing to achieve outcomes O(10.6) and O(10.13) of the SRA Code of Conduct 2011.  

It was apparent that the respondent’s motive was to personally gain financially from the client funds. His conduct was planned as the money was withdrawn over a period of two months, after which he had disappeared.

Clients had suffered substantial losses and had had to make claims on the Compensation Fund, which meant that the profession had also suffered financial losses. The respondent had also caused harm to the firm’s trainee solicitor.

His conduct had been disgraceful. There were no exceptional circumstances in the case. The respondent was not fit to be a member of the profession and could not be trusted. The minimum necessary to protect the public and the reputation of the profession was to remove his ability to practise permanently.

The respondent was ordered to pay costs of £8,361.

Pro-Law Network

On 18 February 2020, the Adjudication Panel resolved to intervene into the Pro-Law Network, the recognised sole practice of Martin Darren Rounthwaite, of 180 Market Street, Hyde SK14 1EX.

The grounds for intervention were:

  • Rounthwaite had failed to comply with the rules made under section 31 of the Solicitors Act 1974 – schedule 1 paragraph 1(1)(c) of the Solicitors Act 1974; and
  • It was necessary to exercise the powers of intervention to protect the interests of clients or former clients of Rounthwaite, or the interests of the beneficiaries of any trust of which Rounthwaite is or was a trustee – schedule 1 paragraph 1(1)(m) of the Solicitors Act 1974.

Sean Joyce of Stephensons Solicitors LLP, Wigan Investment Centre, Waterside Drive, Wigan WN3 5BA;

tel: 0333 344 4776; DX:322401 Wigan 11; email: sraenquiries@stephensons.co.uk; has been appointed as the Society’s agent.

Rounthwaite’s practising certificate has been automatically suspended as a result of the intervention.

MA Law Chambers

On 17 February 2020, the Adjudication Panel resolved to intervene into the above-named recognised body, formerly based at 711 Cranbrook Road, Ilford, Essex IG2 6RJ.

The grounds for intervention were: it was necessary to exercise the powers of intervention to protect the interests of the firm’s clients (or former or potential clients), or the interests of beneficiaries of any trust of which the firm is or was a trustee, or the interests of beneficiaries of any trust of which a person who is or was a manager of the firm, is or was a trustee in that person’s capacity as such a manager.

James Dunn of Devonshires Solicitors LLP, 30 Finsbury Circus, London EC2M 7DT; tel: 0207 065 1830, has been appointed as the Society’s agent.

The first date of attendance was 19 February 2020.

Farid El Diwany

Application 11990-2019

Admitted 1990

Hearing 10-11 December 2019

Reasons 17 January 2020

The SDT ordered that the respondent should be struck off the roll.

On 2 November 2001 and

17 October 2003 the respondent had been convicted of harassment offences in Norway, in contravention of section 390(a) of the Norwegian Penal Code, in breach of rule 1.08(1) of the Solicitors Practice Rules 1990.

He had failed to notify his regulator about those convictions, in breach of rule 1.08(1) of the 1990 rules, rules 1.02 and 1.06 of the Solicitors Code of Conduct 2007 and principles 2, 6 and 7 of the SRA Principles 2011, and had failed to achieve outcome 10.3 of the SRA Code of Conduct 2011.

The motivation for the conduct on which the convictions were based was revenge for what the respondent perceived to be lies which he had been unable to rectify through other means. He had sought to balance the picture of him which had been publicly portrayed in the press.

The failure to report the convictions was caused by a wish to avoid the issues that doing so would bring, together with his belief that in all the circumstances the convictions were unsound.

His failure to report his convictions had amounted to the continuing misleading of his regulator. Each year he had applied for a practising certificate he had wrongly confirmed that he had nothing relevant to report. His culpability was high and the harm caused was significant.

The nature of the misconduct indicated a degree of continuing risk to the public on the basis that the respondent considered himself beyond regulation, it being a matter for him what form his response to provocation took or whether a serious matter needed to be reported to his regulator.

Notwithstanding the very strong personal mitigation presented by the respondent, his complete lack of insight heightened the risks set out above. The public would be profoundly concerned by the misconduct, and the implications for the reputation of the profession were very significant.

The respondent was ordered to pay costs of £5,706.

Charles David Myers

Application 12017-2019

Admitted 2017

Hearing 5 February 2020

Reasons 5 February 2020

The SDT ordered that the respondent should be struck off the roll.

The respondent had backdated the signature of his client Mrs M on a legal help form which that client had completed in furtherance of an application for legal aid, in breach of principles 2 and 6 of the SRA Principles 2011. He had acted dishonestly.

He had backdated the signature of his client Mr M on a declaration confirming the truth of the contents of an application for legal aid made by that client, in breach of principles 2 and 6. He had acted dishonestly.

He had dealt with that declaration in a manner which was apt to conceal that the signature of Mr M upon that document had been backdated and which he knew, or ought to have known, was apt to have that effect, in breach of principles 2 and 6. He had acted dishonestly.

He had made statements to representatives of his employer which were untrue and apt to mislead them as to the existence of the declaration and which he knew, or ought to have known, were liable to have that effect at the time they were made, in breach of principles 2 and 6. 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 proposed outcome.

The SDT was satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that the respondent’s admissions had been properly made.

The respondent had admitted that his conduct had been dishonest. Such conduct meant that it was untenable for him to remain on the roll.

The respondent was ordered to pay costs of £2,322.

Ryan Beckwith

Application 11887-2018

Admitted 2004

Hearing 30 September-10 October 2019

Reasons 30 January 2020

The SDT ordered that the respondent should pay a fine of £35,000.

While in practice as a partner at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP, the respondent had initiated and/or engaged in sexual activity with person A in circumstances which constituted a breach of one or more of principles 2 and 6 of the SRA Principles 2011 because:

  • he was in a position of seniority and/or authority over person A in that he was a partner in the firm, person A’s supervising partner and person A’s appraisal partner;
  • he knew or should have known that person A was heavily intoxicated to the extent that her judgement and decision-making ability were impaired;
  • he knew or should have known on the day in question that person A had not allowed him into her home with a view to sexual activity taking place; and
  • in all the circumstances he knew or should have known that his conduct was an abuse of his position of seniority or authority and/or inappropriate.

The respondent’s conduct had been spontaneous. He had been directly in control notwithstanding his level of intoxication. On his own account, while he was impaired by the amount of alcohol he had consumed, he was still ‘compos mentis’ and he knew what he was doing.

He was a respected partner in the firm and had responsibility for his junior colleagues and, as such, he owed them a duty of care. His conduct had caused harm to the reputation of the profession. It had also caused significant harm to person A.

It was a single episode of brief duration, and the respondent had displayed genuine insight. His misconduct was caused by a lapse in his judgement that was highly unlikely to be repeated. He had attended a number of courses that had been recommended by the firm. There had been no suggestion that he had coerced or manipulated person A.

The respondent had engaged in inappropriate conduct in circumstances where his judgement had been affected by the amount of alcohol he had consumed.

In the circumstances and given the limited nature of the SDT’s findings, the appropriate and proportionate sanction was a financial penalty.

The respondent was ordered to pay costs of £200,000.