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

David Roberts

Application 11970-2019

Admitted 1980

Hearing 4-8 November 2019

Reasons 3 January 2020

The SDT ordered the respondent to pay a fine of £10,000.

While in practice as a partner in and director of Wirral Solicitors Ltd, trading as David Roberts Solicitors:

(i) while acting on behalf of developer A in connection with the sale of units within development A, a real estate development scheme, the respondent had also acted as the solicitor for, as the sole director, and/or holding funds on behalf of buyers, company A in circumstances in which there was a conflict of interests or a significant risk thereof between the interests of developer A and buyers company A, thereby breaching principles 2, 4 and 6 of the SRA Principles 2011 and failing to achieve outcome 3.5 of the SRA Code of Conduct 2011. He had acted recklessly.

(ii) while acting on behalf of developer N in connection with the sale of units within development N, a real estate development scheme, the respondent had also acted as the solicitor for, as the sole director, and/or holding funds on behalf of buyers, company N in circumstances in which there was a conflict of interests or a significant risk thereof between the interests of developer N and buyers company N, thereby breaching principles 2, 4, and 6 and failing to achieve outcome 3.5 of the SRA Code of Conduct 2011. He had acted recklessly.

In so acting the respondent had compromised his independence, including by making payments which were favourable to developer N but potentially adverse to buyers company N, in breach of principles 2, 3, 4 and 6.

He had made payments out of the firm’s client account in the total sum of about £5,788,463.25 other than in accordance with the contractual documents pursuant to which such sums had been paid to the firm, in breach of principles 6 and 10.

As the respondent had retired from practice, the SDT’s overriding objective, when considering sanction, was the need to maintain public confidence in the integrity of the profession.

The respondent’s culpability was medium to high, and his conduct had caused harm to the reputation of the profession. A fine was the appropriate sanction. A £10,000 fine was proportionate and appropriately represented the extent of the respondent’s misconduct.

The respondent was ordered to pay costs of £40,000.

Angelina Mary Rigby

Application 11986-2019

Admitted 1993

Hearing 3-5 December 2019

Reasons 6 January 2020

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

While in practice as a member of Geldards LLP, the respondent had caused a letter which was sent to her opponent in litigation enclosing the costs budget to be backdated, in breach of principles 2 and 6 of the SRA Principles 2011.

She had caused a letter which was sent to the court enclosing the costs budget to be back-dated, in breach of principles 2 and 6.

She had filed an application with Cardiff County Court supported by a statement of truth which contained untruthful and/or misleading statements as to the date of creation of the letters referred to above, which she knew were untruthful and/or misleading, in breach of principles 1, 2 and 6. She had acted dishonestly.

The respondent’s motivation was an attempt to recreate letters which she believed had existed. That desire had manifested in more serious form in the last allegation, where dishonesty had been proved, in which the respondent had signed the declaration of truth in the application notice sent to the court indicating that the attached letters were copies of the lost originals when in fact the letters had been recreated by the respondent.

The respondent’s culpability and the harm caused were high.

The respondent had never entirely accepted that she had been responsible for the preparation of the recreated letters and had sought to transfer the blame to the firm’s secretaries.

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

The respondent was ordered to pay costs of £12,250.

Sarinjit Singh Bahia

Application 11974-2019

Admitted 1993

Hearing 12-13 November 2019

Reasons 24 January 2020

The SDT ordered the respondent to pay a fine of £30,000.

While a director of, and practising as a solicitor for, Consilium Legal Ltd, Colman House, 121 Livery Street Birmingham B3 IRS, the respondent had failed to take any or any adequate steps to satisfy himself as to the validity of a power of attorney used to execute the sale of client AS’s property, and in doing so had breached principles 3, 4, 6 and 10 of the SRA Principles 2011 and had failed to achieve outcome 1.2 of the SRA Code of Conduct 2011.

The respondent had failed to take adequate steps to confirm client AS’s instructions in that he had accepted instructions from OA without ensuring that OA was properly authorised to give such instructions; and in doing so had breached principles 3, 4, 6 and 10 and had failed to achieve outcomes 1.2 and 1.3 of the 2011 code.

The respondent had paid the proceeds of sale of client AS’s property from the firm’s client account to a third party without having taken adequate steps to confirm client AS’s instructions and in doing so had breached rule 20.1(a) of the SRA Accounts Rules 2011, breached principles 4, 6, 8 and 10 and failed to achieve outcome 1.2 of the 2011 Code.

The respondent’s motivation had been to complete the conveyancing transaction, which would have been in his client’s interests. He had not planned the misconduct.

However, he had failed to exercise rigour in ensuring that he had dealt properly with instructions from an elderly client residing abroad. While it was possible that he had been manipulated to a degree, he had acted in a surprisingly incompetent manner for a solicitor of his experience and ability. He had allowed his professional status to be used to give credence to what happened.

The reputation of the profession had been seriously damaged by the respondent’s failings as he had simply not done his job properly.

A fine of £30,000 would adequately reflect not only the seriousness of the misconduct, but also the respondent’s high culpability and the damage to the reputation of the profession.

The respondent was ordered to pay costs of £18,412.

Zeeshan Saqib Mian

Application 11968-2019

Admitted 2007

Hearing 29-30 October and 2 December 2019

Reasons 15 January 2020

The SDT ordered that the respondent should pay a fine of £20,000, and that he should be subject to the conditions set out below for two years from 2 December 2019. The respondent might not:

(i) practise as a sole practitioner or sole manager or sole owner of an authorised or recognised body;

(ii) be a partner or member of a limited liability partnership, legal disciplinary practice or alternative business structure or other authorised or recognised body;

(iii) be a compliance officer for legal practice or a compliance officer for finance and administration;

(iv) hold client money;

(v) be a signatory on any client account, with liberty to either party to apply to vary those conditions.

While practising at Denning Solicitors, the respondent had:

(i) caused and/or permitted SAH to exercise a right of audience before the court when SAH was not entitled to do so, thereby breaching principle 6 of the SRA Principles 2011 and failing to achieve outcome 7.9 of the SRA Code of Conduct 2011. He had acted with manifest incompetence;

(ii) caused and/or permitted the firm’s client account to be used as a banking facility when acting for client E in breach of principle 6 and rule 14.5 of the Solicitors Accounts Rules 2011.

The respondent’s motivation for the engagement of SAH was to assist his client and his actions in that regard while not deliberate were tainted by incompetence. His motivation for the arrangements that had been found to amount to offering a banking facility was his desire to ensure that he was paid for work completed. His culpability was high.

He had not displayed meaningful insight into the inappropriateness of his actions. The misconduct was very serious.

A fine of £20,000 should be imposed on the respondent, and it was appropriate to impose fixed-term restrictions on his future practice.

The respondent was ordered to pay costs of £25,000.

Keisha Hackett

Application 11969-2019

Admitted 2016

Hearing 17 December 2019

Reasons 17 January 2020

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

While in practice as a solicitor and director of Hackett Law Ltd, the respondent had failed to assess client A’s eligibility for legal aid funding, adequately or at all, and had acted instead on a private retainer, thereby breaching principles 4, 5 and 6 of the SRA Principles.

On one or more occasions, she had caused or allowed client A (or his associates) to pay money into her personal bank account and had failed to account for those funds to Duncan Lewis Solicitors with whom she and the firm held a contract for services, thereby breaching rules 1.1, 1.2(a), 1.2(b) and 13.1 of the SRA Accounts Rules 2011 and principles 2, 4, 6 and 10. She had acted dishonestly.

She had failed to return outstanding monies in the sum of £150 to client A, promptly or at all, thereby breaching rule 14.3 of the 2011 rules and principles 2, 4, 6 and 10. She had acted dishonestly.

The respondent’s actions, which had been for personal gain, had been deliberate and calculated. She had taken advantage of client A who, as an asylum-seeker and with very little knowledge of the legal system, had been an inherently vulnerable person.

The respondent had an otherwise unblemished record, and there was evidence that she had made good some of the loss.

She had not understood fully the seriousness of her actions and therefore she lacked genuine insight into her misconduct.

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

The respondent was ordered to pay costs of £14,375.

Michael David Long

Application 11966-2019

Admitted 1997

Hearing 15 October 2019

Reasons 13 January 2020

The SDT ordered that the respondent should pay a fine of £25,000, and that he should be subject to the following conditions on practice imposed for an indefinite period from 15 October 2019. The respondent might not practise as a sole practitioner or sole manager or sole owner of an authorised body, be a compliance officer for legal practice or a compliance officer for finance and administration, or be the sole signatory on any client or office account. He might apply to vary those conditions after three years from 15 October 2019.

While in practice as the principal of David Long Solicitors the respondent had caused or allowed the retention in the firm’s office bank account of monies received in respect of professional disbursements for periods in excess of the time limits prescribed by rules 17.1(b) and 19.1(b) of the SRA Accounts Rules 2011, in breach of rules 1.2(a), 17.1(b) and 19.1(b) of the 2011 rules and principles 2, 6, 8 and 10 of the SRA Principles 2011. The respondent had acted recklessly.

He had caused or allowed monies due to the Legal Aid Agency to be held in the firm’s office account which had caused client account shortages, in breach of rules 1.2(a) and 19.3 of the 2011 rules, and principles 2, 6, 8 and 10. The respondent had acted recklessly.

He had withdrawn or permitted money received by way of damages on behalf of the clients to be withdrawn from the firm’s client account, otherwise than in accordance with rule 20.1 of the 2011 rules, in breach of rules 1.2(a), 1.2(b) and 20.1 of the 2011 rules, and principles 2, 4, 6, 8 and 10. The respondent had acted recklessly.

He had failed to remedy breaches promptly upon discovery in breach of rule 7.1 of the 2011 rules and principle 8.

While acting as the COLP and the COFA of the firm, he had breached rules 8.5(c)(iii) and 8.5(e)(iii) of the SRA Authorisation Rules 2011, and principle 7, and had failed to achieve outcome 10.1 of the SRA Code of Conduct 2011.

The respondent’s misconduct could not be described as deliberate, rather it was a consequence of his failures to take steps to ensure regulatory compliance.

His culpability was high, the principal harm being to the reputation of the profession.

A fine of £25,000 was the appropriate penalty, with restrictions on the respondent’s future practice.

He was ordered to pay costs of £15,000.