Decisions filed recently with the Law Society (which may be subject to appeal)
Elizabeth Teresa Gilmour
Hearing 9 September 2020
Reasons 17 September 2020
The SDT ordered that the respondent should be suspended from practice for 18 months from 9 September 2020, and should thereafter be subject to the conditions that she might not:
(i) practise as a sole practitioner or sole manager or sole owner of an authorised or recognised body or as a freelance solicitor or as a solicitor in an unregulated organisation; (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 client money other than with leave of the SRA; or (v) be a signatory on any client account other than with leave of the SRA, with liberty to either party to apply to vary those conditions.
While in practice as a solicitor and principal at TPC Solicitors, the respondent had caused or allowed client money, in respect of unpaid professional disbursements, to be held in the firm’s office bank account, causing a minimum cash shortage in the client bank account of £213,636.36, thereby breaching principles 6, 8 and 10 of the SRA Principles 2011, and rules 17.1(b)(ii) and 20.1 of the SRA Accounts Rules 2011.
Those moneys had been retained in the firm’s office account in circumstances when the respondent knew or ought to have known that they were being retained in breach of the rules, thereby also breaching principle 2. Her conduct was manifestly incompetent.
By failing promptly to rectify a minimum cash shortage of £214,554.86 on the firm’s client account, she had breached principles 8 and 10 of the SRA Principles 2011, and rule 7 of the SRA Accounts Rules 2011.
By providing incorrect information to the firm’s professional indemnity insurer upon renewal of the firm’s professional indemnity insurance, she had breached principles 2, 6 and 8. Her conduct was manifestly incompetent.
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 had reviewed all the material before it and was satisfied on a balance of probabilities that the respondent’s admissions had been properly made.
A suspension for 18 months was appropriate and proportionate to the seriousness of the respondent’s misconduct. She should not be permitted to practice without supervision, and restrictions on her practice were required.
The respondent was ordered to pay costs of £7,600.
Hearing 9 September 2020
Reasons 17 September 2020
The SDT ordered that the respondent should pay a fine of £17,500.
The respondent had been convicted of one count of sexual assault, contrary to section 3 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003, and sentenced to a community sentence, including an unpaid work element of 120 hours and ordered to pay of costs of £300 and a victim surcharge of £85. He had thereby breached principles 2 and 6 of the SRA Principles 2011.
The respondent’s culpability was high, and the harm caused to the victim and to the reputation of the profession was substantial. It was exacerbated by the nature of the conviction in circumstances which were eminently foreseeable by the respondent who had allowed himself to become intoxicated.
The respondent’s sexual assault of the victim was an isolated incident in respect of which the respondent had demonstrated significant insight, remorse and apology. The fact that the respondent had absented himself from the family home and resigned from his positions within the firm in an attempt to minimise further harm was greatly to his credit.
Having assessed the misconduct as very serious, the SDT was satisfied that the imposition of a fine of £17,500 appropriately marked the severity of the misconduct found both in respect of public protection as well as protection of the reputation to the legal profession. The respondent did not pose a risk to the public and there was minimal, if any, risk of repetition.
The respondent was ordered to pay costs of £1,900.
Hearing 6-8 July 2020
Reasons 10 September 2020
The SDT ordered that the respondent should be struck off the roll.
While acting in relation to a property development scheme at Property P, the respondent had caused or permitted client money, which included purchaser’s deposit money, to be paid into his office account and thereby breached rules 13.1 and 14.1 of the SRA Accounts Rules 2011.
The respondent had made payments out and facilitated transactions which were dubious or bore the hallmarks of fraud when acting on behalf of his client IC in relation to the property development scheme at Property P, thereby breaching principles 2 and 6 of the SRA Principles 2011, and failing to achieve outcome 7.4 of the SRA Code of Conduct 2011.
He had advised A (an undercover reporter posing as an immigration client) regarding methods for circumventing the UK immigration system by entering into a sham marriage, thereby breaching principles 1, 2 and 6. He had acted dishonestly.
During a surreptitiously recorded conversation with A, he had stated that he could prepare and submit paperwork in support of A and others’ marriage and UK residency, notwithstanding that he was aware that the marriage would be bogus and arranged for the purpose of circumventing the UK immigration system, thereby breaching principles 1, 2 and 6. He had acted dishonestly.
The respondent’s motivation for acting and making payments in relation to Property P was financial. With regard to the non-genuine marriage-related conduct, his motivation was to generate instructions and further work. His conduct in relation to Property P was planned. With regard to the advice given to A, it was accepted that the respondent was responding to pointed suggestions put to him by an undercover reporter during two meetings and that his conduct was spontaneous in that case.
The respondent was fully responsible for his actions, with a high degree of culpability.
The findings against the respondent, including dishonesty, required that the appropriate sanction was to strike him off the roll. The respondent was ordered to pay costs of £26,500.