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

 

Joseph Edgar Vincent Roe

Application 11854-2018

Admitted 1974

Hearing 13 January 2020

Reasons 24 January 2020

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

While practising as the principal (manager/director) at Brynmawr Law Limited, Ebbw Vale, Wales, the respondent had failed to take any or any adequate steps to prevent improper payments being made from the client account to VPR, thereby breaching principles 2, 4, 6 and 10 of the SRA Principles 2011, failing to achieve outcome 11.2 of the SRA Code of Conduct 2011 and breaching rule 14.5 of the SRA Accounts Rules 2011. The respondent acted recklessly.

He had failed to run his business effectively and in accordance with proper governance and sound financial and risk management principles, in: failing to reconcile the client accounts every five weeks; failing to store client files securely; permitting a person not employed by or contracted with the firm to have unrestricted access to the firm’s premises; and failing to carry out the roles of compliance officer for legal practice, compliance officer for finance and administration and money laundering reporting officer. He had thereby breached principle 8 and rule 29.12 of the rules.

The respondent had had no knowledge of the importance of his governance and compliance roles, and had shown a blatant disregard of his duties and obligations as a solicitor and owner of the firm.

The impact on his client JLE had been extensive. She had lost almost £100,000 of her inheritance, which had still not been recovered.

The respondent’s culpability was high and the harm caused significant. The cumulative effect of the respondent’s misconduct was such that the protection of the public and the reputation of the profession required that he should be permanently removed from the roll.

The respondent was ordered to pay costs of £27,731.

Nabeel Amer Sheikh

Application 11821-2018

Admitted 1998

Hearing 11-15 November 2019

Reasons 23 January 2020

Following an application that the proceedings against the respondent should be struck out, the SDT granted the application and ordered that the proceedings against the respondent be dismissed.

The applicant was ordered to pay the respondent’s costs of £62,698.

Colin Kenneth Grooms

Application 12002-2019

Admitted 1993

Hearing 21 January 2020

Reasons 12 February 2020

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

The respondent’s practising certificate had expired on 31 October 2017, but he had continued to practise after that date, in breach of sections 20 and 21 of the Solicitors Act 1974, thereby breaching principles 1, 2, 6 and 8 of the SRA Principles 2011, rules 9.1 and 9.2 of the Practice Framework Rules and failing to achieve outcome 5.1 of the SRA Code of Conduct 2011. He had acted dishonestly.

The respondent’s insurance had expired on 30 September 2017. He had been covered by the 30-day extended indemnity period until 30 October 2017. As he had not obtained alternative cover, the cessation period (expiring on 29 December 2017) applied afterwards. During that period he should not have taken on new work, and after that period he should not have been doing any work at all. Nevertheless, he had continued to work until March 2018, and had taken on at least one new matter, thereby breaching principles 6 and 8, and rules 5.1 and 5.2 of the Indemnity Insurance Rules.

He had failed to keep proper accounts from at least 2012 to the closure of his practice, thereby breaching principles 6, 8 and 10, and rules 1.2(e), 20.1, 29.1, 29.2 and 29.12 of the Solicitors Accounts Rules.

He had failed to reply to two letters from the Legal Ombudsman, thereby breaching principles 6 and 7.

The respondent’s misconduct was planned. His clients had ended up being represented by an unqualified, uninsured solicitor. The court had been misled as had other parties to any litigation.

There was nothing that would justify a lesser sanction than strike-off.

The respondent was ordered to pay costs of £10,659.

Vidal Eulalie Martin

Application 11886-2018

Admitted 2005

Hearing 5-19 November 2020

Reasons 13 February 2020

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

While in practice as a solicitor at Bright and Sons, the respondent had procured a cheque from X in the sum of £4,700, made payable to herself; failed to pay the cheque into client account; caused or allowed the cheque to be paid into her own bank account; failed to document, justify or explain that transaction on file, adequately or at all, and dealt with the funds as her own, thereby breaching rules 1(a), 1(b), 1(c), 1(f) and 15(1) of the Solicitors Accounts Rules 1998, and rules 1.02, 1.04 and 1.06 of the Solicitors Code of Conduct 2007. The respondent had acted dishonestly.

She had made false and/or misleading representations to the applicant’s forensic investigation officer in relation to the cheque, namely that a sort code corresponding to the bank account referred to in the first allegation was not and never had been hers, or words to that effect, and that Nationwide Building Society had informed her that the cheque had been returned, or words to that effect, thereby breaching principles 2, 6 and 7 of the SRA Principles 2011. The respondent had acted dishonestly.

The respondent’s motivation in requesting the cheque initially was personal enrichment. Her motivation for the subsequent misleading statements was to influence the applicant’s investigation into her conduct.

She had been in a position of considerable trust, the SDT having found that X was to some extent vulnerable. Her culpability was high. The harm caused by the misconduct was very significant.

Having found that the respondent had acted dishonestly, and that exceptional circumstances did not exist, 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 £47,516.