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

Barbara Julia Gribbin

Application 12030-2019

Admitted 1992

Hearing 17 March 2020

Reasons 27 April 2020

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

While she was a solicitor at Iceblue Legal LLP the respondent had:

  • allowed the firm’s client account to be used as a banking facility, in breach of rule 14.5 of the SRA Accounts Rules 2011 and principles 2, 3, 4, 6, 8 and 10 of the SRA Principles 2011, and had acted dishonestly;
  • withdrawn sums of up to £8,048,706.99 from the firm’s client account, in breach of rule 20.1 of the rules and principles 2, 3, 4, 6, 8 and 10, and had acted dishonestly;
  • failed to replace promptly, or at all, one or more shortages in the client account, in breach of rule 7 of the rules and principles 2, 3, 4, 6, 8 and 10;
  • failed to return client money to clients promptly, or at all, in breach of rule 14.3 of the rules and principles 2, 4, 5, 6 and 10, and had acted dishonestly; and
  • had failed to ensure that client account reconciliations were completed every five weeks, in breach of rules 29.1, 29.2 and 29.12 of the rules and principles 8 and 10.

The respondent’s conduct was extremely serious. She had caused a high degree of harm to clients, the public trust and to the reputation of the profession. She had repeatedly acted dishonestly over a long period of time.

She had not demonstrated any insight into her behaviour and had not engaged with the tribunal proceedings at all. While she had appeared to express some remorse to the forensic investigation officer, she had not provided any evidence of that to the SDT.

There were no exceptional circumstances in her case. The respondent was a risk to the public and the reputation of the profession, as she could not be trusted with client funds. The appropriate sanction was permanently to remove her ability to practise as a solicitor.

The respondent was ordered to pay costs of £27,653.

James Mawbey-Shaw and Law Offices UK Limited

Application 12037-2019

Hearing 29 April 2020

Reasons 12 May 2020

The SDT ordered that the first and second respondents should pay, on a joint and several basis, a fine of £17,500, and that the first respondent should be subject to the following conditions: that for a period of three years from 29 April 2020 (i) he might not practise as a sole practitioner or sole manager or sole owner of an authorised or recognised body; (ii) he might not be a compliance officer for legal practice or a compliance officer for finance and administration; and (iii) he agreed to notify any employer or future employer (if that employer was an authorised body as defined in the Glossary to the SRA Handbook 2012) of the conditions on his practising certificate, with liberty to apply to vary those conditions.

The first respondent (admitted 2008), while in practice as a partner in Wilsons Solicitors and its successor practice Law Offices (UK) Limited (the second respondent), and while acting for investor clients on exchanges of contracts in relation to three property development schemes:

(i) had failed to advise those clients as to the obvious potential pitfalls in the schemes, including in particular the risk that the security provided by way of insurance bond from Company 6 might be inadequate;

(ii) that notwithstanding express or implied representations to the contrary, he had carried out no due diligence of Company 6 and the clients would be strongly advised to do so for themselves; and

(iii) that in relation to the hostel accommodation, there was no obvious need to purchase a room in the hostel and the investment was no more secure than investing in the hostel business itself.

He had thereby acted in breach of rules 1.04, 1.05, 1.06 of the Solicitors Code of Conduct 2007 and of principles 4, 5, 6 and 10 of the SRA Principles 2011, and had failed to achieve outcomes 1.2 and 1.5 of the SRA Code of Conduct 2011.

When the second respondent had acted for both seller and buyer in sales and potential sales of private homes to client A1, it had failed to have in place adequate systems and controls for assessing conflicts of interests, thereby breaching principles 3, 4, 5, 6 and 8 and failing to achieve outcomes 3.1, 3.3, 3.5, 3.6, 4.4 and 4.5 of the code.

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 to the requisite standard that the respondents’ admissions had been properly made.

The misconduct, as a result of which over £10m of client funds had been placed at risk, was very serious. The admitted breaches were of fundamental and basic obligations, however none of the allegations included acting without integrity.

The SDT granted the application for matters to be resolved by way of the agreed outcome.

The first and second respondents were ordered to pay, on a joint and several basis, costs of £36,650.

P H Brothwell

On 29 May 2020, the adjudication panel resolved to intervene into the recognised sole practice of Peter Hobson Brothwell, practising as P H Brothwell at 16 Church Street, Folkestone, Kent CT20 1SE.

The grounds of intervention were:

  • there was reason to suspect dishonesty on the part of Brothwell in connection with his practice as a solicitor – paragraph 1(1)(a)(i) of schedule 1 to the Solicitors Act 1974.
  • Brothwell had failed to comply with the SRA Principles 2011 and the SRA Accounts Rules 2011 – paragraph 1(1)(c) of schedule 1 to the Solicitors Act 1974.

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 to act as the Society’s agent.

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