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

Daniel Lloyd Williams

Application 12103-2020

Hearing 13 August 2020

Reasons 1 October 2020

The SDT granted the applicant’s application for variation of a condition imposed by it on 3 December 2015 that he should provide quarterly medical reports. It further ordered that the applicant must provide annual reports to the Solicitors Regulation Authority from a recognised medical practitioner as to his mental health and fitness to practise, the next report to be submitted on or before 11 May 2021.

The original condition had been imposed over four years ago. The applicant had produced 18 medical reports since then and the SDT considered that if there had been any issues of concern about his health, such matters would have arisen during that time. Although the applicant had not worked as a solicitor since September 2016, he had been in other employment since then. He had been deemed fit to work while working as a solicitor.

Although the applicant’s ability to work as a solicitor, dealing with the stresses that might entail, had not been tested more recently, that could be balanced with the fact that the applicant had provided regular timely quarterly medical reports since December 2015 and no issues had been raised in those reports. During that time, the applicant had dealt with a bereavement, challenging family circumstances and a change in his job, but his health had remained stable throughout. Those would all have been stressful events and the applicant had coped well throughout.

The restrictions were not intended to prevent the applicant from practising but to ensure that he did so in a safe and constructive environment.

The SDT was satisfied that it was no longer necessary for such frequent medical reports to be required.

The applicant was ordered to pay costs of £200.

Kirna Devi Madhas

Application 12058-2020

Admitted 2004

Hearing 24-25 August 2020

Reasons 29 September 2020

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

While in practice as a solicitor and director at MHK Solicitors Limited (previously known as GSD Law Limited), and in the course of or after acting in litigation before the county court, while acting for one or more clients on matters in respect of which after-the-event insurance was in place for the benefit of clients, or had been held out to clients as being in place, the respondent had breached principles 4, 5 and 6 of the SRA Principles 2011, and rules 1.04, 1.05 and 1.06 of the Solicitors Code of Conduct 2007.

She had breached principles 4, 5 and 6 and rules 1.04, 1.05 and 1.06 of the code.

She had failed to comply promptly or at all with compensation awards made against the firm by the Legal Services Ombudsman (LeO), thereby breaching principles 6 and 7.

She had submitted, or caused or allowed the submission of, costs schedules, thereby breaching principles 2, 4 and 6, and failing to achieve outcome 5.1 of the SRA Code of Conduct 2011. She had acted dishonestly.

She had produced to the court, or caused or allowed to be produced to the court, a document known by her to be capable of misleading the court, thereby breaching principles 2 and 6, and outcome 5.1. She had acted dishonestly.

She had failed to provide client files promptly or at all when requested by: (i) clients, thereby breaching principle 5; and (ii) the SRA, thereby breaching principle 7.

When submitting a proposal form to a PII insurer, she had made material non-disclosures, thereby breaching principles 2, 6 and 8. She had acted dishonestly.

The respondent had pursued a considered path of conduct which was calculated, repeated and systematic, in which she had clearly breached the trust her clients had placed in her. Her conduct was a significant departure from the complete integrity, probity and trustworthiness expected of a solicitor.

There was no evidence of any genuine insight, no open or frank admissions, and little if any cooperation with her regulator and the LeO.

The respondent’s misconduct could only be viewed as extremely serious and that fact, together with the need to protect the reputation of the legal profession, required that strike-off from the roll was the only appropriate sanction.

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

Louise Clair Johal

Application 12085-2020

Admitted 2004

Hearing 9-10 September 2020

Reasons 28 September 2020

The SDT found the allegation made against the respondent not proved. It therefore ordered that the allegation be dismissed and that there be no order for costs.

The allegation against the respondent was that she had filed and served a witness statement which the witness had not signed, but on which she had transposed a signature from a statement which he had signed. She had therefore led the court, and the other side in litigation, to believe that her client had approved the statement, when he had not done so, had thereby breached principles 1, 2, and 6 of the SRA Principles 2011, and had failed to achieve outcome 5.1 of the SRA Code of Conduct 2011.

In addition, the SRA had advanced the allegation on the basis that the respondent’s conduct was dishonest, or, in the alternative, reckless.

The SDT had found that the respondent had genuinely, but mistakenly, believed that the statement filed and served had been approved by her client. While the respondent’s mistake was significant, and, as had been accepted on her behalf, negligent, it did not amount to professional misconduct in breach of principle 1. It was a mistake, and in making a mistake, with nothing more, the respondent had not failed to uphold the rule of law and the administration of justice. The respondent had not knowingly or recklessly misled the court in breach of principles 2 or 6.

A finding that the respondent’s conduct was in breach of the principles would be setting an unrealistically high standard; not all mistakes made by solicitors would amount to a breach of the principles.

Having found that the respondent’s conduct did not amount to professional misconduct, the SDT had not considered the aggravating features of dishonesty or recklessness. 

Nicholas St John Gething

Application 12045-2020

Admitted 1999

Hearing 12 August 2020

Reasons 19 October 2020

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

The respondent had prepared and submitted to the Registrar of Companies, falsified copies of charges granted over property A, in order to lead the registrar to believe that they had been delivered within the period allowed for delivery of company charges prescribed within section 859(4) of the Companies Act 2006 (as amended), when they had not, thereby breaching principles 2, 4, 5 and 6 of the SRA Principles 2011. He had acted dishonestly.

He had prepared and submitted to the Registrar of Companies, falsified copies of charges granted over property B, in order to lead the Registrar to believe that they had been delivered within the period allowed for delivery of company charges prescribed within section 859(4) of the act (as amended), when they had not, thereby breaching principles 2, 4, 5 and 6. He had acted dishonestly.

The respondent’s motivation had been to ensure that the amended legal charges would be registered at Companies House, even though he knew he had resubmitted them outside the applicable time limit.

The respondent had not been completely transparent with either the mortgage lender or the client, and he had been solely responsible for his actions, which had been planned.

He had effectively lodged false charges at Companies House. The SDT, having heard evidence from the respondent, was concerned that he did not seem to understand or appreciate the seriousness of what he had done, and while he had shown some degree of insight during the hearing, he still did not appear to grasp the gravity of his actions.

Although the respondent had had a previously long career with no concerns, as a very experienced solicitor he should have known that this was not the way to deal with late applications for the registration of legal charges. In the absence of any exceptional circumstances, the appropriate sanction was to strike the respondent off the roll.

The respondent was ordered to pay costs of £5,731.

Paul Michael Ireland

Application 12079-2020

Admitted 2000

Hearing 10 September 2020

Reasons 1 October 2020

The SDT ordered that the respondent should pay a fine of £10,000, and further that he should be subject to the condition that he filed the first accountants’ report within two months of 31 March 2021, with liberty to apply.

The respondent had made or permitted incorrect payments from the client account of Paul Ireland Solicitors, causing a minimum cash shortage of £16,862.79 as at 31 October 2018, thereby breaching principles 6, 8 and 10 of the SRA Principles 2011, and rules 20.1 and 20.6 of the SRA Accounts Rules 2011.

He had failed to carry out reconciliations of the firm’s client account between March 2016 and March 2018 which were required at least once every five weeks and had thereby breached principles 6, 8 and 10, and rules 29.12 and 29.13. He had failed to have proper accounting systems, thereby breaching principles 6, 8 and 10, and rules 1.2(e), 29.1, 29.2, 29.4, 29.9 and 29.14.

He had kept client money in an interest-bearing account, and had failed both to account for interest to the clients or have a written policy on how to deal with interest. He did not know of the requirements. As a result, he had breached principles 6, 8 and 10, and rules 22.1 and 22.3.

He had failed to obtain annual accountants’ reports for the years ending 13 March 2017 or 13 March 2018, thereby breaching principles 6, 7 and 8, and rule 32.1.

In his capacity as the COLP and COFA at the firm, he had failed to ensure, or take adequate steps to ensure, compliance with the firm’s regulatory obligations under the Accounts Rules and had thereby breached principle 7 and rule 8.5.

As a result of not having proper accounting systems, he had failed to run his business properly, resulting in arrears to HMRC of £53,640.21 as at 22 November 2018, thereby breaching principles 6 and 8, and failing to achieve outcomes 7.2, 7.3 and 7.4 of the SRA Code of Conduct 2011.

The parties had invited the SDT to deal with the allegations against the respondent in accordance with an agreed outcome.

The SDT was satisfied that the respondent’s admissions had been properly made. The respondent had failed to manage the firm’s accounts in an appropriate way and had thus committed numerous breaches of both the Principles and the Accounts Rules.

A financial penalty of £10,000 was appropriate and reflected the seriousness of his misconduct. The respondent was ordered to pay costs of £10,000.

Petros Petrou and Stylianos Petrou

Application 12099-2020

Hearing 29 September 2020

Reasons 19 October 2020

The SDT ordered that the first respondent (admitted 1990) should be struck off the roll, and that the second respondent (admitted 1997) should be suspended from practice for 12 months from 29 September 2020. Further, upon the expiry of that fixed term of suspension, the second respondent should be subject to the following conditions: that he might not (i) be a manager or owner of any authorised body, authorised non-SRA firm or legal services body; (ii) act as a compliance officer for legal practice or compliance officer for finance and administration for any authorised body, or head of legal practice or head of finance and administration in any authorised non-SRA firm; (iii) hold or receive client money, or act as a signatory to any client account, or have the power to authorise transfers from any client or office account; and that he would (iv) immediately inform any actual or prospective employer of those conditions and the reasons for their imposition, with liberty to either party to apply to vary them.

The first respondent had, while he was in practice as a solicitor, a partner and the compliance officer for finance and administration at Petrou Law Partnership, caused or allowed the firm to overcharge the estate of JW (deceased), of which he was an executor, by up to £237,999.23, thereby breaching rules 1.2, 6.1, 17.7, 20.1 and 20.3 of the SRA Accounts Rules 2011, and principles 2, 4, 6 and 10 of the SRA Principles 2011, and failing to achieve outcomes 1.1, 1.2 and 11.1 under the SRA Code of Conduct 2011. He had acted recklessly.

He had failed adequately or at all to inform the sole residuary beneficiary of the JW estate, C, of the charges referred to above, thereby breaching principles 2 and 6, and failing to achieve outcome 11.1. He had acted recklessly.

He had caused or allowed the firm to borrow £100,000 from C, funded out of the JW estate, without ensuring that C and/or the estate had obtained independent legal advice or recording the loan agreement in writing adequately or at all, thereby breaching principles 2, 3, 4, 6 and 10. He had failed to achieve outcomes 1.1, 3.4 and 11.1.

He had caused or allowed the firm to make payments to C totalling up to £230,000 out of funds belonging to other clients, thereby breaching rules 1.2, 6.1 and 20.1 of the rules, principles 2, 4, 6, 8 and 10, and failing to achieve outcomes 1.1 and 1.2. He had acted recklessly.

While acting in the estate of GL (deceased), he had caused or allowed the firm to raise bills of costs totalling up to £175,923.14, which materially exceeded the level of fees agreed with the estate’s lay executors, including Ms L, and transfer monies totalling up to £156,638.00 from client to office account, representing a material overcharge, thereby breaching rules 1.2, 6.1, 17.7, 20.1 and 20.3 of the rules, and principles 2, 4, 6 and 10, and failing to achieve outcomes 1.1 and 1.2. He had acted recklessly.

He had failed adequately or at all to inform the lay executors of the GL estate including Ms L, of the bills of costs and the client to office transfers referred to above, thereby breaching rules 17.2, 20.1 and 20.3 of the rules, and principles 2, 4, 5 and 6, and failing to achieve outcome 1.1. He had acted recklessly.

A cash shortage of up to £489,649.57 existed on the firm’s client bank account, caused by debit balances on client account, incorrect payments from client account including up to six of the improper payments to C referred to above, and the incorrect transfers of costs from the GL estate referred to above. The first respondent had thereby breached rules 1.2, 6.1, 7.1, 20.1, 20.3 and 20.6 of the rules, rule 8.5(e) of the SRA Authorisation Rules 2011, and principles 2, 4, 6, 7, 8 and 10.

While the second respondent was in practice as a solicitor, a partner and the compliance officer for legal practice at the firm, a cash shortage of up to £489,649.57 had existed on the firm’s client bank account, caused by debit balances on client account, incorrect payments from client account including up to six of the improper payments to C referred to above, and the incorrect transfers of costs from the GL estate referred to above. He had therefore breached rules 1.2, 6.1, 7.1, 20.1, 20.3 and 20.6 of the Accounts Rules, and principles 2, 4, 6, 7, 8 and 10.

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 respondents’ admissions had been properly made.

The SDT noted the first respondent’s undertaking never to apply for readmission as a solicitor. In all the circumstances, the proposed sanction of strike-off was appropriate and proportionate.

In conjunction with restrictions on the second respondent’s practice, a suspension of 12 months was appropriate.

Each respondent was ordered to pay costs of £20,000.

Justice Solicitors Ltd

On 5 November 2020, the SRA intervened into the closed firm Justice Solicitors Ltd and the practice of Raja Shazad Khan at Justice Solicitors Ltd, formerly of 3 Abbey Street, Accrington, Lancashire BB5 1EN. This decision was made by the Adjudication Panel.

The grounds of intervention into the practice of Khan at Justice Solicitors Ltd were:

  • It was necessary to intervene to protect the interests of clients or former clients and the beneficiaries of any trust of which Khan is or was a trustee (paragraph 1(1)(m) schedule 1 – part I of the Solicitors Act 1974).
  • Khan failed to comply with the SRA Principles 2011 and 2019, and the SRA Accounts Rules 2011 and 2019, which are rules made under sections 31 and 32 of the Solicitors Act 1974 (paragraph 1(1)(c) schedule 1 – part I of the Solicitors Act 1974).

The grounds of intervention into Justice Solicitors Ltd were:

  • It was necessary to intervene to protect the interests of clients and former clients of Justice Solicitors Ltd and the interests of any trust of which the recognised body or its managers are or were a trustee (paragraph 32(1)(e) of schedule 2 to the Administration of Justice Act 1985 as amended).
  • Khan, a manager of the firm, and the firm itself have failed to comply with the SRA Principles 2011 and 2019, and the SRA Accounts Rules 2011 and 2019, which are rules applicable to them under section 9 of the Administration of Justice Act 1985 (paragraph 32(1)(a) schedule 2 to the Administration of Justice Act 1985 as amended).

No intervention agent has been appointed. Enquiries should be directed to heather.andersen@sra.org.uk, tel: 01218 205061.

Fensom & Co

The SRA intervened on 18 November 2020 into the former sole practice of Raymond Fensom who practised as Fensom & Co from 40 Rowan Close, St Albans AL4 0ST.

The grounds for intervention were: it was necessary to intervene to protect the interests of former clients of Mr Fensom – paragraph 1(1)(m) of schedule 1 to the Solicitors Act 1974.

Mr Fensom died on 31 March 2019.

No intervention agent has been appointed.

The SRA is making arrangements to collect the remaining practice papers.