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

Mbolokele Nsimba

Application 11996-2019

Admitted 2009

Hearing 18-19 November 2019

Reasons 9 December 2019

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

While in practice as a solicitor at Cadem Hope Ltd between around March 2018 and May 2018, the respondent had caused or allowed improper payments to be made from the client and/or office account to third parties, in breach of principles 2, 6 and 10 of the SRA Principles 2011, outcome 7.5 of the SRA Code of Conduct 2011 and rule 20 of the Solicitors Accounts Rules 2011. He had acted dishonestly.

He had caused or allowed a shortfall of £5,738,657.38 on the client account which had not been replaced, in breach of principles 2, 6 and 10 and rules 6 and 7 of the rules. He had acted dishonestly.

He had caused or allowed one or more named individuals to assume control of the firm by permitting them access to the firm without carrying out any or adequate due diligence into their background and/or qualifications; taking instructions from them; failing to take any or adequate steps to monitor and/or control their activities in respect of the firm; failing to take any or adequate steps to ensure compliance with the rules; failing to take any or adequate steps to ensure compliance with the Money Laundering Regulations 2007; and failing to make and/or retain appropriate financial records, in breach of principles 2, 6, 7 and 8, rules 8.5(c) and 8.5(e) of the SRA Authorisation Rules and rules 1(f) and 29 of the rules. His conduct had been reckless and manifestly incompetent.

The respondent had admitted, among other things, recklessness and manifest incompetence and the seriousness of that misconduct was itself very high. Dishonesty had also been alleged and proved.

A finding of dishonesty would almost invariably lead to striking off save in exceptional circumstances. There were no exceptional circumstances in the present case and the appropriate sanction was for the respondent’s name to be struck off the roll.

The respondent was ordered to pay costs of £33,235.

Rajinder Kumar Puri

Application 11902-2018

Admitted 2007

Hearings 14-18 October, 21 November 2019

Reasons 27 November 2019

The SDT ordered that the respondent should pay a fine of £7,501. While in practice as solicitor at and owner of Rothery Inesons Solicitors (622792) the respondent had: having been appointed by the Court of Protection as property and affairs deputy for client BN, (i) raised one or more invoices for purported professional fees and VAT thereon totalling up to £33,000 in circumstances where such fees had not been properly incurred in the sums billed and were manifestly excessive; (ii) improperly transferred those monies to office account; (iii) used them to pay staff salaries or for other office side purposes; and (iv) failed promptly to return the monies improperly taken, thereby breaching principles 2, 4, 5, 6 and 10 of the SRA Principles 2011, failing to achieve outcome 5.3 of the SRA Code of Conduct 2011, and breaching rules 6, 7, 8.1(c) and 8.2 of the SRA Accounts Rules 2011; and while acting in the estate of FH, (i) raised one or more invoices for purported professional fees and VAT thereon totalling up to £31,200 in circumstances where such fees had not been properly incurred in the sums billed and were manifestly excessive; (ii) improperly transferred those monies to office account; (iii) used them to pay staff salaries or for other office side purposes; and (iv) failed promptly to return the monies improperly taken, thereby breaching principles 2, 4, 5, 6 and 10 and rules 6 and 7 of the rules.

The SDT found that harm, albeit inadvertent as opposed to intentional, had been caused to the reputation of the profession. There were a number of mitigating factors, including that the respondent had a previous unblemished career and had demonstrated genuine insight into his failings.

A lack of integrity had been found proved which had resulted in the misconduct being assessed as ‘more serious’. The essential elements of the misconduct would be appropriately met by the imposition of a level 3 financial penalty in the sum of £7,501.

There was no order for costs.

Phillip Charles York

Application 11972-2019

Admitted 1979

Hearing 15 October 2019

Reasons 3 December 2019

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

The respondent had taken money from client accounts (relating to Mrs JW, Mrs LS and Mrs BR) without due reason, in breach of rules 1.02, 1.04, 1.05, 1.06 and 1.04-06 of the Solicitors Code of Conduct 2007, rule 22.1 of the Solicitors Accounts Rules 1998, principles 2, 4, 5, 6 and 10 of the SRA Principles 2011 and rule 20.1 of the Solicitors Accounts Rules 2011. The respondent had acted dishonestly.

The respondent had not kept accurate books of account, in breach of rules 1.02, 1.06 and 5.01 of the code, rules 1(g) and 7.1 of the 1998 rules, principles 2, 6 and 8 and rules 1.2 and 7.1 of the 2011 rules.

The respondent had not paid client money to his clients promptly, in breach of rules 1.02, 1.04, 1.05, 1.06 and 1.04-06 of the 2007 code, rule 15(3) of the 1998 rules, principles 2, 4, 5, 6 and 10 and rule 14.3 of the 2011 rules.

The respondent had not administered estates properly, in breach of principles 2, 5 and 6.

The respondent had acted for a seller in a transaction in which he had sent the proceeds of sale to an unknown third party on whom he had done no due diligence, and had therefore acted in a transaction which bore the hallmarks of fraud, in breach of principles 2 and 6.

When renewing his insurance, the respondent had told his insurer that he did not know of any unreported circumstances. He had known at the time that the police were investigating one of his instructions. In hiding that from the insurer, he had breached principles 2, 6 and 7. He had acted dishonestly. The respondent’s culpability was high, as was the level of harm caused.

There were no exceptional circumstances in the case and accordingly the appropriate sanction was to remove the respondent from the roll.

The respondent was ordered to pay costs of £14,509.

Shohaab Dar

Application 11967-2019

Admitted 2002

Hearing 29-30 October 2019

Reasons 11 December 2019

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

The respondent had received £1,000 into his personal bank account in relation to clients S and M’s matter but had failed to account for that money to the firm or return it to the clients, in breach of principles 2, 6 and 10 of the SRA Principles 2011 and rules 7.1 and 14.1 of the Solicitors Accounts Rules 2011.

In failing to issue a claim on behalf of clients S and M within the appropriate limitation period, and/or in failing to promptly inform either the clients or his employer of this, he had breached principles 4 and 5 and failed to achieve outcomes 1.2 and 1.5 of the SRA Code of Conduct 2011. He had acted dishonestly.

He had failed to respond promptly or at all to communications sent to him by the SRA, thereby breaching principle 7 and failing to achieve outcome 10.6 of the code.

He had made repeated statements to the SRA that he would provide responses to the correspondence sent to him and the requests for information being made which he did not then comply with or provide, in breach of principles 2 and 6. While the respondent had initially received the money into his account in order to assist the clients, he had retained it as he was unable to return it and had treated it as a loan. He had therefore not planned to keep the money, but had done so in response to circumstances over which he had direct control and responsibility. That was a very serious breach of trust, and was aggravated by his dishonesty. He lacked insight and had not made open or frank admissions to the allegations.

The 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 in the present case. It had been a prolonged period of dishonesty and there was nothing in the circumstances of the misconduct or the respondent’s personal situation that could justify a lesser sanction. The respondent was ordered to pay costs of £8,433.

Geoffrey Hart

Application 11984-2019

Admitted 1998

Hearing 14 October 2019

Reasons 11 November 2019

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

While in practice as a director at Ward & Rider Ltd, while acting for A in bringing a personal injury claim, the respondent had made statements in a letter or letters to A which were untrue and/or misleading, and which the respondent knew to be untrue and/or misleading, as to the value of the settlement of A’s claim, and in doing so had breached principles 2 and 6 of the SRA Principles 2011. He had acted dishonestly.

He had disclosed confidential information about B, a client of the firm, to a third party for the purposes of the third party’s own legal practice and without B’s consent, and in doing so had breached principle 6 and outcome O(4.1) of the SRA Code of Conduct 2011.

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 had reviewed all the material before it and was satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that the respondent’s admissions had been properly made.

In the statement of agreed facts and proposed outcome it was stated under non-agreed mitigation: ‘The respondent is of the view that there were exceptional personal circumstances which [led] him to act as he did.’ Those circumstances were then set out.

The respondent had not however advanced those circumstances as constituting exceptional circumstances for the purposes of sanction and accepted that strike-off was the appropriate sanction in respect of the allegations. The SDT agreed that strike-off was the appropriate sanction in the case.

The respondent was ordered to pay costs of £9,000.