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

Cabeer Ahmed

Application 12020-2019

Admitted 2008

Hearing 10 August 2020

Reasons 26 August 2020

The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal ordered that the respondent should be struck off the roll.

By failing to ensure that £440,090.94 held in the firm’s client account representing proceeds from the estate of GV (deceased) had been properly transferred and paid out in full to the beneficiary (SV) prior to the closure of his firm, the respondent had breached principles 2, 6 and 10 of the SRA Principles 2011. He had acted dishonestly.

In the course of winding down and closing his practice, the respondent had made improper transfers from client to office account totalling £120,000, in breach of rules 6 and 20.1 of the SRA Accounts Rules 2011, and principles 2, 6 and 10. He had acted dishonestly.

He had failed to keep accounting records properly written up to show dealings with client and office money and failed to appropriately record all dealings with client money on client ledgers, in breach of all or alternatively any of rules 6, 29.1 and 29.2 of the rules.

Responsibility for the circumstances giving rise to the misconduct, and the misconduct itself, rested solely with the respondent and as such his culpability was high.

The harm caused by the respondent’s misconduct was high and a finding of dishonesty inevitably aggravated the underlying misconduct.

The findings against the respondent, which included dishonesty, required him to be struck off the roll.

The respondent was ordered to pay costs of £9,977.

Jinnah & Co Ltd

On 29 September 2020, the adjudication panel of the Solicitors Regulation Authority resolved to intervene into the closed recognised body, Jinnah & Co Ltd, in liquidation, formerly of 4th Floor, Horsefair House, 3 Horsefair Street, Leicester LE1 5BP. The firm used the trading name JBR Morgan Solicitors. It closed in September 2019 and entered liquidation on 28 November 2019.

The grounds of intervention were:

  • There had been a relevant insolvency event in relation to the firm – paragraph 32(1)(c) of schedule 2 to the Administration of Justice Act 1985; and
  • It was necessary to exercise the powers of intervention to protect the interests of clients or former clients, the interests of beneficiaries of any trust of which the firm is or was a trustee, or the interests of the beneficiaries of any trust of which a person who is or was a manager or employee of the firm is or was a trustee in that person’s capacity as a manager or employee – paragraph 32(1)(e) of schedule 2 to the Administration of Justice Act 1985.

No agent has been appointed. The SRA is making arrangements to collect the practice documents and money.

Johnson Law Ltd

The adjudication panel resolved to intervene into the closed firm, Johnson Law Ltd, formerly of 29-31 Knowsley Street, Bolton, Lancashire BL1 2AS.

The grounds of intervention were:

  • There had been a relevant insolvency event in relation to the firm (paragraph 32(1A) of schedule 2 to the Administration of Justice Act 1985);
  • It was necessary to exercise the powers of intervention to protect the interests of clients or former clients, the interests of beneficiaries of any trust of which the firm is or was a trustee, or the interests of the beneficiaries of any trust of which a person who is or was a manager or employee of the firm is or was a trustee in that person’s capacity as a manager or employee (paragraph 32(1)(e) of schedule 2 to the Administration of Justice Act 1985).

Arrangements are being made to uplift archived files.

Hampton Solicitors Ltd

On 26 September 2020, the adjudication panel resolved to intervene into the late Isaaq Shafi, practising as Hampton Solicitors Ltd of 179 Birchfield Road, Perry Barr, Birmingham B19 1LL, and 29 Church Vale, Perry Barr, Birmingham B20 3SG. Mr Shafi died on 14 September 2020.

The ground of intervention was:

  • It was necessary to exercise the powers of intervention to protect the interests of clients (or former clients) of the firm – (paragraph 32(1)(e) of schedule 2 to the Administration of Justice Act 1985 (as amended)).

Susie Dryden of Blake Morgan LLP, New Kings Court, Tollgate, Chandlers Ford, Eastleigh SO53 3LG; tel: 02380 857270; email: interventions@blakemorgan.co.uk; has been appointed to act as the Society’s agent. The first date of attendance was 29 September 2020.

John William Duncombe

Application 12095-2020

Admitted 1997

Hearing 3 August 2020

Reasons 18 August 2020

The SDT ordered that the respondent should be suspended from practice for 12 months from 3 August 2020, and thereafter should be subject for three years to the following conditions:

(a) that he might not (i) practise as a sole practitioner or be the 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 head of legal practice/compliance officer for legal practice or a head of finance and administration/compliance officer for finance and administration; (iv) hold or receive client money; (v) be a signatory on any client account, or have the power to authorise transfers from any client or office account; and

(b) that he should notify any employer or future employer (if that employer was an authorised or recognised body as defined in the glossary to the SRA Standards and Regulations (2019)) of the conditions on his practising certificate, with liberty to apply to the SDT to vary those conditions.

While practising as a director at Opes Law Limited and while acting as a compliance officer for legal practice and compliance officer for finance and administration of the firm, he had failed to ensure that those positions had been approved by the SRA, in breach of rules 8.1, 8.5(b) and 8.5(d) of the SRA Authorisation Rules 2011 (SAR), and principle 7 of the SRA Principles 2011.

In completing practising certificate renewal forms for the practising years 2015/16 and 2016/17, he had failed to provide accurate information to the SRA in respect of arrangements for the introduction of work to the firm, and arrangements for sharing professional fees, thereby failing to achieve outcome 10.2 of the SRA Code of Conduct 2011 and breaching principle 7.

He had failed properly to inform the firm’s clients of the details of its fee-sharing arrangements, thereby failing to achieve outcomes 9.4 and 9.5 of the code and breaching principle 5.

He had failed to ensure compliance with rule 17.1 of the SRA Accounts Rules 2011 in that monies for unpaid professional disbursements had been improperly retained in the firm’s office account, creating a minimum client account shortage of £14,340, thereby breaching rule 6.1 of the SAR, and principles 7 and 8.

He had failed to ensure compliance with rules 29.1, 29.2(b), 29.4, 29.9 and 29.12 of the SAR, thereby breaching rule 6.1 thereof, and principles 7 and 8.

When the firm was acting on behalf of individuals in respect of potential personal injury claims relating to holiday sickness:

(i) in relation to CJ, CS and LJS, he had caused or allowed an electronic signature system to be operated, which failed to ensure that all claimants had received, seen and signed conditional fee agreements and failed to verify that the firm had authority to act for each individual client, thereby breaching principles 4, 6 and 8, and failing to achieve outcomes 1.3, 1.6 and 7.2;

(ii) in relation to BS and LG, he had failed to act in the clients’ best interests by engaging with the claim and giving proper legal advice to the clients, thereby breaching principles 4 and 5 and failing to achieve outcome 1.5; and

(iii) in relation to EB, LM, and OW, he had failed to ensure that the firm had permission to transfer their files to Prospect Law, thereby breaching principles 5 and 6, and failing to achieve outcome 1.12.

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 that the respondent’s admissions had been properly made.

The respondent’s misconduct had been repeated, had continued over a period of time and had significantly impacted those affected. Clients who had not  instructed the firm were being chased for monies that they were not aware were owed. That situation had arisen from the failure of the firm to obtain and verify instructions.

A suspension for 12 months with restrictions thereafter was appropriate. The respondent was ordered to pay costs of £1,500.

Steven David Kinch

Application 12084-2020

Admitted 1989

Hearing 4 August 2020

Reasons 12 August 2020

The SDT ordered that the respondent should be suspended from practice for 15 months from 4 August 2020, after which he should be subject to the following conditions for three years: that he might not (i) practise as a sole practitioner or sole manager or sole owner of an authorised or recognised body; (ii) be a compliance officer for legal practice or a compliance officer for finance and administration; (iii) hold client money; or (iv) be a signatory on any client account; with liberty to apply to vary those conditions.

While in practice as a recognised sole practitioner at SDK Law the respondent had:

(a) recklessly failed to comply with his obligations in respect of anti-money laundering, including source of funds checks and customer due diligence, thereby breaching principles 6 and 7 of the SRA Principles 2011, and failing to achieve outcome 7.5 of the SRA Code of Conduct 2011;

(b) recklessly caused or permitted the firm’s client account to be used as a banking facility, thereby breaching rule 14.5 of the SRA Accounts Rules 2011 and principle 6;

(c) recklessly failed to perform an undertaking, thereby breaching principle 6 and failing to achieve outcome 11.2;

(d) recklessly and improperly acted in or facilitated schemes which bore the hallmarks of dubious transactions, thereby breaching principles 2, 3, 6 and 7, and failing to achieve outcome 7.5; and

(e) recklessly and improperly acted in or facilitated schemes which bore the hallmarks of potential money laundering, thereby breaching principles 2, 3, 6 and 7, and failing to achieve outcome 7.5.

The parties had invited the SDT to deal with the allegations against the respondent in accordance with a statement of agreed facts and 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.

The allegations faced by the respondent were very serious. The respondent’s actions had amounted to serious misconduct with high culpability and harm. It had continued over a period of three years and involved very large sums of money. A significant sanction was necessary to ensure that the reputation of the profession was maintained. The respondent was ordered to pay costs of £5,000.