Lesley Charne Seifert

Application 11892-2018

Admitted 1979

Hearing 2-4 October 2019

Reasons 9 December 2019

The SDT ordered that the respondent should pay a fine of £3,000.

While practising as a sole practitioner at Seifert & Co, on or about 29 July 2016, in making an application to HM Land Registry, the respondent had breached principle 6 of the SRA Principles 2011.

On or about 23 September 2016, in making an application to HM Land Registry, the respondent had breached principle 6.

The respondent’s only motivation was carelessness with regards to supervision of delegated tasks. There was no intent to mislead. The misconduct had not been planned. The respondent should have had direct control of the relevant issues, but the nature of the misconduct was that she had delegated certain actions without ensuring the tasks were completed.

The respondent’s culpability was moderately high given that as an experienced solicitor she should have exercised greater control and oversight. The harm caused was modest.

The first 38 years of the respondent’s legal career had featured no regulatory or disciplinary issues, and the SDT considered that the risk of any future issues was extremely low. A fine was an appropriate sanction. The misconduct was inevitably serious given that it had involved conduct which had undermined public trust in the respondent and the profession.

There was no order for costs.

Robin Edward Stubbings

Application 11981-2019

Admitted 1975

Hearing 5 November 2019

Reasons 21 November 2019

The SDT ordered the respondent to pay a fine of £15,000.

The respondent had failed to return client monies promptly (in sums between £3,388.48 and £50,345.20 for periods of up to 14 years) and/or to inform the client or the person on whose behalf the money was held in writing the amount of client money still held and the reason for its retention, in breach of rule 1(a), (d) and (e) of the Solicitors Practice Rules 1990, rule 1.03 and 1.06 of the Solicitors Code of Conduct 2007, rule 15(3) and (4) of the Solicitors Accounts Rules 1998, and rule 14.3 and 14.4 of the SRA Accounts Rules 2011.

He had failed to take sufficient steps to complete/progress the administration of at least five probate matters by allowing significant delays to occur, in breach of rule 1(a), (d) and (e) of the 1990 rules, rule 1.03 and 1.06 of the code and principles 3, 6 and 8 of the 2011 Principles.

During the course of investigations by the Legal Ombudsman into two complaints he had failed to deal with the ombudsman in an open, timely and cooperative manner and had failed to cooperate with the Solicitors Regulation Authority in breach of principle 7.

The respondent had not made an active or conscious decision, but had lost control of his administrative workload. He had not intended or planned to retain the funds for as long as he did.

The appropriate sanction was a financial penalty. The respondent had made serious mistakes and the matter therefore fell at the top of the range. The appropriate sanction was a fine of £15,000. The respondent was ordered to pay costs of £15,580.

The respondents were ordered to pay costs of £3,852 on a joint and several basis.

Rodney Patrick William Etherington

Application 11987-2019

Admitted 2007

Hearing 1 November 2019

Reasons 15 November 2019

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

The respondent had made a misleading statement in an email to a residuary beneficiary, DG, concerning an application to the court in relation to his mother’s estate, in breach of principles 2 and 6 of the SRA Principles 2011. He had acted dishonestly.

He had made a misleading statement in a telephone conversation with a residuary beneficiary, DG, concerning an application to the court in relation to his mother’s estate, in breach of principles 2 and 6. He had acted dishonestly.

He had made a misleading statement in an email to a residuary beneficiary, LG, concerning an application to the court in relation to his mother’s estate, in breach of principles 2 and 6. He had acted dishonestly.

He had made a further misleading statement in an email to DG, concerning an application to the court in relation to his mother’s estate, in breach of principles 2 and 6. He had acted dishonestly.

He had sent an email to his secretary instructing her to telephone DG, and make statements which he knew were untrue and/or misleading, in breach of principles 2 and 6 of the SRA Principles 2011. He had acted dishonestly.

The parties 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 were properly made. In the absence of any exceptional circumstances, the reputation of the profession and the protection of the public required that he be struck off the roll.

The respondent was ordered to pay costs of £2,800.

Astrid Halberstadt-Twum and Joseph Twum

Application 11978-2019

Hearing 12 November 2019

Reasons 10 December 2019

The SDT ordered that the first respondent (admitted 2000) should be struck off the roll. With respect to the second respondent (the first respondent’s husband, and the firm’s practice manager and compliance officer for finance and administration), the SDT ordered that from 12 November 2019 except in accordance with Law Society permission (i) no solicitor should employ or remunerate him in connection with his practice as a solicitor; (ii) no employee of a solicitor should employ or remunerate him in connection with the solicitor’s practice; (iii) no recognised body should employ or remunerate him; (iv) no manager or employee of a recognised body should employ or remunerate him in connection with the business of that body; (v) no recognised body or manager or employee of such a body should permit him to be a manager of the body; and (vi) no recognised body or manager or employee of such a body should permit him to have an interest in the body.

By virtue of having been convicted on 9 July 2018 of conspiracy to defraud the Legal Aid Agency and committing an act/series of acts with intent to pervert the course of public justice, the respondents had breached principles 1, 2 and 6 of the SRA Principles 2011.

They had failed to report their convictions to the SRA in breach of principles 6 and 7.

The respondents’ misconduct had involved the commission of two serious criminal offences. It had been deliberate, calculated and repeated, and had continued over a period of time. While they had not taken advantage of a vulnerable person, they had taken advantage of the legal aid fund which was designed to ensure that those in need of legal advice and assistance, but without means to pay for that advice, could receive the help and assistance required.

The first respondent had continued to deny any wrongdoing, despite her conviction, and had shown no insight. Both respondents were equally culpable for the misconduct, and the same harm had been caused.

The protection of the public and of the reputation of the legal profession required that the first respondent’s name should be struck off the roll.

The misconduct was of such a nature that it was undesirable for the second respondent to be involved in a legal practice in the ways set out in the order.

Hanif Mohammed

Application 11528-2016

Admitted 1988

Hearings 15-17 March 2017, 7-9 May 2019, 29-31 July 2019

Reasons 3 October 2019

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

The respondent had made 24 improper withdrawals and/or allowed improper withdrawals to be made from client account totalling £216,387.30, thereby creating shortages on client account, in breach of rules 20.1(a) and 20.9 of the Solicitors Accounts Rules 2011 and principles 2, 6 and 10 of the SRA Principles 2011.

Eight of those 24 improper transfers were improperly transferred money from client account to office account in respect of costs totalling £72,787.16 when no bill of costs had been given, nor bill sent, nor other written notification of the costs incurred had been given, or sent to the client or paying party, and therefore the respondent had additionally breached rules 17.2 and 20.3 of the rules and principles 2 and 6. The respondent had acted dishonestly.

He had failed to remedy those breaches of the provisions of the rules promptly on discovery in breach of rule 7.1.

He had failed to keep accounts records properly written up in that not all payments made out of client bank account were recorded within the firm’s books of account at the time the payments were made and had thereby breached rules 29.1, 29.2 and 29.9.

He had failed to carry out client bank account reconciliations every five weeks in breach of rule 29.12.

The SDT acknowledged that the time when the misconduct was committed had been a difficult one for the respondent personally because of the very serious health issues of a close family member and a bereavement. However, a solicitor with many years’ experience and a firm of considerable size should have the means, mechanisms and ability to pass on some of the responsibilities to others subject to proper oversight. A solicitor was expected to behave with honesty and integrity whatever their personal difficulties and the SDT did not consider that the case met the test for exceptional circumstances such that any sanction other than strike-off would be appropriate.

The respondent was ordered to pay costs of £55,000.