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

John Martin Gao
Application 11735-2017
Admitted 2015 
Hearing 18-19 December 2018
Reasons 6 February 2019

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

The respondent had misappropriated monies belonging to the late client A totalling up to around £19,500, in breach of principles 2, 4, 6 and 10 of the SRA Principles 2011. He had acted dishonestly.

The respondent had failed to return the monies promptly upon request in breach of principles 2, 4, 6 and 10. He had acted dishonestly. 

The respondent had issued and maintained civil proceedings against client A which were without merit and brought in order to extract further monies from her in the sum of £1,500 plus interest, in breach of principles 1, 2, 4 and 6. He had acted dishonestly. 

The misconduct found to be proved was aggravated by the fact that the allegations included dishonest conduct. The misconduct also extended over a considerable period of time and was deliberate. It was aggravated by the elaborate steps taken by the respondent to seek to conceal his lack of entitlement to the monies. 

The SDT was very conscious of the personal circumstances relating to his family that the respondent had outlined. They were taken into account as mitigating factors, and the character references supplied were carefully read and considered. The respondent had no prior disciplinary findings against him. 

The findings against the respondent including dishonesty required that the appropriate sanction was to strike his name from the roll.

The respondent was ordered to pay costs of £23,075. 

Colin Ross Downie
Application 11844-2018
Admitted 2000 
Hearing 21 January 2019
Reasons 29 January 2019

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

While in practice as a member at Adjust Law Group Limited (formerly MJP Justice Limited), the respondent had sought investor funding for the firm, in the knowledge that funds previously transferred to the firm for the purpose of funding PPI cases had not been returned to the investors in accordance with the terms on which those funds were invested, and/or that the firm’s financial situation was worsening, thereby breaching rules 1.02 and 1.06 of the Solicitors Code of Conduct 2007, principles 2, 6 and 8 of the SRA Principles 2011, and failing to achieve outcome 11.1 of the SRA Code of Conduct 2011. He had acted dishonestly. 

He had misused or directed the misuse of investor funds provided to the firm, thereby breaching rules 1.02, 1.06 and 10.01 of the 2007 code, principles 2, 6 and 8, and failing to achieve outcome 11.1 of the 2011 code. He had acted dishonestly. 

He had knowingly misled other parties, including SH, RM and the administrators of the firm in respect of the value of the firm’s work-in-progress, thereby breaching rules 1.02 and 1.06 of the 2007 code, principles 2 and 6 and failing to achieve outcome 11.1 of the 2011 code. He had acted dishonestly. 

He had failed to check for, and/or correct, inaccuracies in respect of the firm within the litigation funding scheme promotional brochure of Adjust Law Capital, thereby breaching principles 2 and 6 and failing to achieve outcome 8.1 of the 2011 code.

The matter was dealt with by way of the agreed outcome procedure. 

The SDT had reviewed all the material before it and was satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that the respondent’s admissions were properly made. This was a very serious case of dishonesty involving large sums of money, and one where no lesser sanction than a strike-off was appropriate having regard to the need to protect the public and the reputation of the profession. There were no exceptional circumstances and so the proposed sanction was approved.

The respondent was ordered to pay costs of £20,833 plus VAT.

Tharanjit Biring
Application 11865-2018
Admitted 2004 
Hearing 12 December 2018
Reasons 31 January 2019

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

On 20 July 2017, the respondent was convicted after trial of committing an act/series of acts with intent to pervert the course of justice, thereby breaching principles 1, 2 and 6 of the SRA Principles 2011. She was sentenced on 23 August 2017 to 19 months’ imprisonment and ordered to pay a victim surcharge of £100.

The respondent had previously had an employment arrangement with (and was a friend of) Mrs B, who was the principal of a firm of solicitors and her co-defendant in the criminal trial. 

The motivation for the respondent’s conduct was to assist Mrs B with her dispute with an ex-employee of the firm, Mrs A. She provided a false witness statement in support of Mrs B’s position, which was subsequently served on the prosecuting authorities. The conduct involved an ongoing falsehood in that the statement was not withdrawn after its initial production. 

The conduct had not been planned by the respondent, but she had been found by the trial judge to have acquiesced without the application of pressure. It was accepted that the respondent had not drafted the statement and was not the prime mover in the events giving rise to her conviction. 

The impact on Mrs A and Mrs C was very significant as they had been the subject of lengthy police investigations to which the false evidence provided by the respondent had contributed at least in part.

The respondent’s conduct was of the utmost seriousness and was aggravated by the fact that it represented serious criminal misconduct. However she had cooperated fully with her regulator and was remorseful for her actions. The respondent was ordered to pay costs of £1,000.