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

John Leonard Turner

Application 11983-2019

Admitted 1972

Hearing 15 January 2020

Reasons 20 January 2020

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

The respondent had withdrawn client money totalling £83,834 from the client account, transferred it to his office account and misused it by applying it to fund his practice, in breach of rules 1.2(a) and 20.1 of the SRA Accounts Rules 2011, rule 1.2(a) of the rules and principles 2, 6, 8 and 10 of the SRA Principles 2011. He had acted dishonestly.

He had caused a cash shortage to exist on the client account, in breach of rule 20.6 of the rules.

He had withdrawn office money from the client account in advance of issuing a bill of costs, in breach of rules 17.2 and 20.3 of the rules. 

He had failed to remedy breaches of the rules promptly upon discovery, in breach of rule 7 thereof. 

The respondent was sole proprietor, compliance officer for legal practice and compliance officer for finance and administration of the firm. While his motivation for the misconduct might have been altruistic, in that he was trying to maintain the firm or wind it down in an orderly manner, it was still a flagrant disregard of the duties incumbent upon him in the roles that he held. There was no nefarious motivation on the part of the respondent but his actions were planned, repeated and had occurred over a protracted period of time.

Significant and foreseeable harm had been caused to the reputation of the profession and to clients by the respondent’s misconduct.

The only appropriate order was a striking-off order that removed the respondent from the roll. No exceptional circumstances had been advanced by the respondent or found on the face of the papers that could militate against the imposition of a striking-off order.

The respondent was ordered to pay costs of £500.

Catherine Ann Sandbach

Application 12016–2019

Admitted 2009

Hearing 14 January 2020

Reasons 23 January 2020

The SDT ordered that the respondent should be struck off the roll. The respondent, formerly an assistant solicitor in the litigation department at Woodfines Solicitors LLP, had deliberately misled her client SD by causing her to believe that her matter was progressing through the court when she knew that proceedings had not been issued, thereby breaching principles 2, 4, 5 and 6 of the SRA Principles 2011 and failing to achieve outcomes 1.1 and 1.5 of the SRA Code of Conduct 2011. She had acted dishonestly.

She had deliberately misled her client TM by causing him to believe that his matter was progressing through the court when she knew that proceedings had not been issued, thereby breaching principles 2, 4, 5 and 6 and failing to achieve outcomes 1.1 and 1.5 of the code. She had acted dishonestly.

While acting for SJ on an annulment of a bankruptcy order matter, the respondent had fabricated and backdated an email purportedly sent to the Insolvency Service in order to mislead SJ into believing that she had acted on his instructions and issued the annulment application by the deadline when she knew that was not true, thereby breaching principles 2, 4, 5 and 6 and failing to achieve outcomes 1.1, 1.2 and 1.5 of the code. She 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 had been properly made.

The case involved significant dishonesty, repeated across several clients over a period of time. The appropriate sanction was a strike-off given the severity of the misconduct. There were no exceptional circumstances such that would justify a lesser sanction. It was a sad case but one that could only result in the respondent being struck off the roll. The SDT therefore approved the agreed outcome. 

The respondent was ordered to pay costs of £2,600.

Ieuan Michael Jones and David Walter Phillips

Application 11993-2019

Hearing 7-8 January 2020

Reasons 28 January 2020

The SDT ordered that the first respondent (admitted 1999) should be struck off the roll; and that the second respondent (admitted 1980) should be suspended from practice for 12 months from 8 January 2020.

The first respondent, while acting as partner at Jestyn Jeffreys, had: 

  • made transfers from the firm’s client to office account of sums which were in excess of those which might properly be charged for the work undertaken and which did not reflect the work actually undertaken, in breach of principles 2, 4 and 6 of the SRA Principles, and had acted dishonestly;
  • knowingly provided misleading information to the SRA about bills sent by the firm, in breach of principles 2 and 6, and had acted dishonestly; and
  • knowingly provided misleading information to the SRA about client communications concerning bills in breach of principles 2 and 6, and had acted dishonestly.

The first respondent, and the second respondent, a partner and compliance officer for legal practice and compliance officer for finance and administration at the firm, had:

  • withdrawn money from the firm’s client account to office account on behalf of costs where bills had not been sent out to clients and relevant persons and when they did not have authority to do so, in breach of principles 2, 4, 6, 8 and 10, and rules 17.2, 20.1(a) or 20.1(f) of the SRA Accounts Rules 2011; and
  • failed to remedy breaches of the rules, failed to keep accurate records of money held for clients and failed to carry out reconciliations in breach of rules 1.2(f), 7.1 and/or 29.12(c) of the rules and principles 8 and 10. 

The first respondent’s misconduct was at the highest level and the only appropriate sanction was a strike-off. There were no exceptional circumstances that would make such an order unjust.

The reputation of the profession required that the second respondent be removed from practice, not that he be struck off. The second respondent’s level of insight was such that a fixed term of suspension of 12 months was appropriate. 

The first respondent was ordered to pay costs of £34,823; the second respondent £14,924.

David Howes Solicitors

On 21 February 2020, the Adjudication Panel resolved to intervene into David Howes, practising as David Howes Solicitors of Eton Chambers, 95 Victoria Road, Horley, Surrey RH6 7QH.  

The grounds for intervention were: there was reason to suspect dishonesty on the part of Howes in connection with his practice as a solicitor (paragraph 1(1)(a)(i) of schedule 1 to the Solicitors Act 1974 (as amended)); Howes had failed to comply with rules made under section 31 of the Solicitors Act 1974 (paragraph 1(1)(c) of schedule 1 to the Solicitors Act 1974).

Michael Veal of Lester Aldridge, Russell House, Oxford Road, Bournemouth BH8 8EX; tel: 01202 786 341; email: interventions@la-law.com; has been appointed to act as the Society’s agent. The first date of attendance was 24 February 2020. 

Howes’ practising certificate has been suspended as a result of the intervention decision.

CK Law Limited

On 26 February, the panel intervened into the practice of Chidi Umezurike at CK Law Limited and into the recognised body CK Law Limited. The firm practised at 1 Elwick Road, Ashford, Kent TN23 1PD. 

The grounds for intervention into the practice of Umezurike were: there was reason to suspect dishonesty on his part in connection with his practice as a solicitor – paragraph 1(1)(a)(i) of schedule 1 to the Solicitors Act 1974; he had breached the SRA Principles 2011, the SRA Accounts Rules 2011 and the Accounts Rules – paragraph 1(1)(c) of schedule 1 to the Solicitors Act 1974.

The grounds for intervention into CK Law Limited were: there was reason to suspect dishonesty on his part, as a manager of the firm, in connection with the firm’s business – paragraph 32(1)(d)(i) of schedule 2 to the Administration of Justice Act 1985; Umezurike, as a manager of the firm, and the firm itself, had failed to comply with the SRA Principles 2011, the SRA Accounts Rules 2011 and the Accounts Rules, which are rules applicable to them both under section 9 of the Administration of Justice Act 1985 – paragraph 32(1)(a) of schedule 2 to the 1985 act.

James Dunn of Devonshires Solicitors LLP, 30 Finsbury Circus, London EC2M 7DT; tel: 0207 065 1830; email: intervention-team@devonshires.co.uk, has been appointed as the Society’s agent. Umezurike’s practising certificate has been suspended as a result of the intervention. 

John Morgan and Partners

On 24 February 2020, the panel resolved to intervene into the above-named former sole practice of Andrew Morgan, formerly based at 5-7 Oxford Street, Mountain Ash, Mid Glamorgan CF45 3PG. 

The firm closed on 26 June 2015. 

Mr Morgan died on 30 September 2019. The ground for intervention was: it was necessary to intervene to protect the interests of his former clients. 

No intervention agent has been appointed. The SRA is making arrangements to uplift the archived files relating to the firm. The intervention letter and notice were served on the personal representative of Mr Morgan on 25 February 2020.