Decisions filed recently with the Law Society (which may be subject to appeal)
Hearing 30 June, 1-2 July 2020
Reasons 27 July 2020
The SDT ordered that the respondent should be struck off the roll. By making out a cheque for the sum of £2,021.80 drawn on the client account of the firm payable to himself, by concealing the fact of that by completing the cheque stub and accounts slip to show the cheque as being paid to his client PSG Franchise, and then by paying the cheque into his personal bank account, the respondent had breached principles 2, 4, 6 and 10 of the SRA Principles 2011, and rule 20.1 of the SRA Accounts Rules 2011. He had acted dishonestly.
By deliberately misleading his client PSG Franchising in an email dated 21 April 2016, he had breached principles 2, 4 and 6. He had acted dishonestly.
The respondent’s motivation for the misconduct had been his own personal gain, followed by concealment of his own wrongdoing. Although he had not been admitted to the roll at the material time, he nevertheless had had considerable experience of working in a law firm and was well aware of his obligations.
The respondent’s level of culpability was high and the damage to the reputation of the profession was significant.
It had not been a ‘moment of madness’ or a temporary loss of judgment, rather a planned series of dishonest acts committed by the respondent personally. The only appropriate and proportionate sanction was that he be struck off the roll. There was nothing that would justify a lesser sanction. The respondent was ordered to pay costs of £9,000.
Alastair James McGregor Gilfillan
Hearing 17, 29 June 2020
Reasons 14 August 2020
The SDT ordered that the respondent should be struck off the roll.
The respondent had sent a ‘list of documents’ for standard disclosure to the court and HF solicitors which purportedly bore his client’s signature, but which had in fact been signed by the respondent without his client’s knowledge or consent, thereby breaching principles 1, 2, 4 and 6 of the SRA Principles 2011, and failing to achieve outcomes 5.1 and 5.6 of the SRA Code of Conduct 2011. He had acted dishonestly.
The respondent knew, or ought to have known, that his client had no properly arguable basis for recovering the damages being claimed for personal injury but had taken no or no adequate steps to limit his client’s claim to a sum that was properly recoverable, thereby breaching principles 1, 2, 4, 5 and 6, and failing to achieve outcomes 5.1 and 5.6.
The respondent had sent a witness statement to the court and the defendant containing a ‘statement of truth’ bearing his client’s signature, which gave the misleading impression that his client had seen and approved the statement, when she had not, thereby breaching principles 1, 2, 4 and 6, and failing to achieve outcomes 5.1 and 5.6. He had acted dishonestly.
The respondent’s motivation was to try and meet court deadlines and progress the client’s case. He had had no personal motivation or gain from his conduct but had made very grave errors of judgement. He had not intended to act dishonestly.
Some harm had been caused to the client, whose case had eventually been withdrawn. There had been some issues raised by the defendant’s solicitors around the nature and impact of the accident, as well as about the client’s credibility, so it was not known whether her claim would have ultimately failed in any event. Harm had also been caused to the reputation of the profession.
In his submissions, the respondent had focused on criticising the client and had not appeared to fully appreciate his own responsibilities to ensure the case was presented properly. The client might well have been difficult, but that did not detract from the respondent’s own duties of honesty to the court and other parties in the litigation.
It was a sad case where the respondent had made very grave errors of judgement on one particular file that had been challenging. It was absolutely sacrosanct that solicitors did not mislead the court in any way. The respondent had become careless on two occasions and had acted stupidly. There were no exceptional circumstances in the case.
The respondent was ordered to pay costs of £9,000.
Hearing 23 June 2020
Reasons 28 July 2020
The SDT ordered that the respondent should be suspended from practice for one year from 24 June 2020, after which he should be subject to the following conditions: he might not be a compliance officer for legal practice, compliance officer for finance and administration or money laundering reporting officer, and he should inform any actual or prospective employer of those conditions and the reasons for them, with liberty to apply to vary those conditions.
By accepting a caution on 9 March 2018 for the possession of a class A drug, the respondent had breached principles 2 and 6 of the SRA Principles 2011.
By delaying in informing the SRA that he had accepted that caution, he had breached principles 2, 6 and 7, and had failed to achieve outcome 10.3 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 was satisfied that the respondent’s admissions had been properly made.
There was a need to protect both the public and the reputation of the legal profession from future harm from the respondent by removing and thereafter restricting his ability to practise, but neither the protection of the public nor the protection of the reputation of the legal profession justified striking the respondent off the roll.
A suspension for 12 months was appropriate and proportionate to the seriousness of the respondent’s misconduct. Given the nature of his failures, he should not be permitted to undertake compliance roles within a firm.
The respondent was ordered to pay costs of £1,809.