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

Anjan Patel

Application 12076-2020

Admitted 1998

Hearing 21-24 September 2020

Reasons 28 October 2020

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

While in practice as a solicitor at Neumans LLP and in the course of acting on behalf of A in litigation before the High Court, the respondent had:

  • concluded a settlement of a costs claim in the A litigation in which A had a direct financial interest, without A’s authority, thereby breaching principles 2, 4, 5 and 6 of the SRA Principles 2011;
  • failed to notify or cause A to be notified that the costs claim referred to above had been settled, thereby breaching principles 2, 4, 5 and 6;
  • dishonestly made misleading statements to solicitors acting on behalf of A in relation to the costs claim referred to above, thereby breaching principles 2 and 6;
  • acted in circumstances giving rise to a conflict between the interests of A and the firm, thereby breaching principles 2, 4, 5 and 6; and the interests of A and his own interests, thereby breaching principles 2, 4, 5 and 6, and failing to achieve outcome 3.4 of the SRA Code of Conduct 2011.

While in practice as a solicitor and in the course of acting on behalf of C in litigation, the respondent had:

  • failed to comply with reasonable requests from C for information as to costs, thereby breaching principles 2, 4, 5 and 6;
  • held himself out to C as being authorised to engage in discussions concerning the firm’s costs, following intervention by the SRA into the firm and in the knowledge of communications from the SRA to the effect that he was not so authorised, thereby breaching principles 2, 6 and 7.

While in practice as a solicitor and a consultant at Cubism Law, and while acting on behalf of F in litigation brought against a bankrupt, the respondent had sent correspondence to the solicitors acting for a trustee in bankruptcy which had improperly: (i) carried an express or implied threat of action against the solicitors acting on behalf of the trustee in bankruptcy in circumstances in which no such threat could properly be made; (ii) claimed that the trustee in bankruptcy was improperly receiving payments in relation to his appointment as trustee in the absence of evidence or proper grounds to support such an assertion; (iii) claimed that the trustee in bankruptcy was acting fraudulently or improperly in the absence of evidence or proper grounds to support such an assertion; and (iv) threatened reputational harm to the trustee in bankruptcy in the absence of proper grounds to make such a threat, thereby breaching principle 6.

In the course of responding to communications sent by an officer of the SRA, the respondent had improperly made threats against an SRA officer, thereby breaching principles 2, 6, and 7.

The respondent’s conduct had been a complete departure from the standards expected of him by the profession and the public. Further, his conduct had been aggravated by his proven dishonesty.

His actions were deliberate, calculated and repeated over a lengthy period and he had sought to conceal his wrongdoing. In view of the serious nature of the misconduct, in that it involved dishonesty, the only appropriate and proportionate sanction was to strike the respondent off the roll.

The respondent was ordered to pay costs of £30,000.

Anjan Patel and Stephen James Bane

Application 12076-2020

Hearing 3 September 2020

Reasons 9 September 2020

The SDT ordered that the second respondent (admitted 2010) should be suspended from practice for 12 months from 3 September 2020, during which time he should notify any employer or future employer (if that employer were an authorised or recognised body as defined in the Glossary to the SRA Standards and Regulations 2019) of that suspension. (As to the first respondent, see above decision.)

While in practice as a solicitor in the firm and in the course of acting on behalf of A in the A Litigation, the second respondent had failed to notify A or cause A to be notified of the settlement of a costs claim in the A Litigation in which A had a financial interest, thereby breaching principles 2, 4, 5 and 6 of the SRA Principles 2011.

He had caused or allowed misleading statements to be made to solicitors acting on behalf of A in relation to the costs claim referred to above, thereby breaching principles 2 and 6.

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 first respondent confirmed that he was aware of the agreed outcome application and the content of the agreed outcome document, and that he supported the application for matters against the second respondent to be dealt with by way of an agreed outcome. The SDT had reviewed all the material before it and was satisfied that the second respondent’s admissions had been properly made.

The admitted misconduct was too serious for a reprimand or a financial penalty. There was a need to protect both the public and the reputation of the legal profession from future harm from the second respondent by removing his ability to practise, but that did not justify striking him off the roll. A suspension from practice for 12 months was appropriate and proportionate in all the circumstances.

The respondent was ordered to pay costs of £10,000.

Martin Keith Waters and Rodney William Noon

Application 12101-2020

Hearing 28-29 October 2020

Reasons 3 November 2020

The SDT ordered that the first respondent (admitted 2002) should be suspended from practice for six months. Upon the expiry of that fixed term of suspension the first respondent should be subject, for three years, to the conditions that he 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 head of legal practice/compliance officer for legal practice or a head of finance and administration/compliance officer for finance and administration; or (iii) hold client money save for with the permission of the Solicitors Regulation Authority.

The SDT ordered that the second respondent (admitted 1985) should be struck off the roll.

While in practice as a solicitor at Arrans Solicitors Limited, the first respondent had caused or allowed the second respondent to act in the matter of A in a building construction dispute when he knew that the second respondent had been suspended from acting as a solicitor pursuant to an order of the SDT dated 10 March 2015, thereby breaching principles 2, 4, 5 and 6 of the SRA Principles 2011.

He had caused or allowed a cash shortage of £384,469.57 to exist in the firm’s books of account as at 23 April 2018 in breach of rules 1.2(c), 6 and 20.1 of the SRA Account Rules 2011, and principles 2, 4, 6 and 10.

He had failed to replace promptly and fully the above monies which had been improperly withdrawn from a client account, thereby breaching principle 7.

In relation to two conveyancing transactions, he had failed to ensure that the firm had effective systems to manage risks in compliance with rules made by the SRA and failed to exercise an appropriate degree of supervision and control over the firm and its employees, thereby breaching principle 8 and failing to achieve outcomes 7.2 and 7.8 of the SRA Code of Conduct 2011.

In his capacity as the COFA at the firm, he had failed to take proper steps to ensure that he, the firm and the firm’s employees had complied with obligations imposed on them by the Accounts Rules, in that he:

  • had not exercised sufficient control or oversight of solicitor C, to whom he had given authority to operate the firm’s client and office accounts; and/or had not recorded any failure to comply, or reported to the SRA, any material failure to comply with the Accounts Rules as soon as reasonably practicable, thereby breaching rules 8.5(e)(i) and (iii) of the SRA Authorisation Rules 2011.

He had failed to provide a full and complete response to a production notice within the deadline specified in the notice, and/or failed to provide the information requested in a letter dated 1 March 2018 promptly or at all, thereby breaching principle 7 and failing to achieve outcomes 10.8 and 10.9 of the code.

The second respondent had practised as a solicitor in the matter of A in a building construction dispute, while he (the second respondent) was suspended from acting as a solicitor pursuant to an order of the SDT dated 10 March 2015, thereby breaching principles 2, 5 and 6.

He had dishonestly failed to inform his client, A, that he had been suspended from practice, thereby breaching principles 2, 4, 5 and 6.

He had knowingly and dishonestly provided inaccurate information to the SRA, thereby breaching principles 2, 6 and 7.

He had failed to inform the SRA that he was employed by firm B, when he was subject to a condition of practice imposed on him by the SDT on 10 March 2015 requiring him to work only in employment approved by the SRA, thereby breaching principles 2, 6 and 7.

The first respondent’s misconduct was the result of omissions rather than positive acts, but that did not reduce his culpability. He had made no effort to ensure that the second respondent complied with the terms of his suspension, and had abdicated his regulatory responsibilities.

A suspension together with restrictions on the first respondent’s practice would provide adequate protection for the public and the reputation of the profession.

The second respondent had placed his loyalty above his regulatory responsibilities. His conduct was aggravated by his proven and admitted dishonesty.

In view of the serious nature of his misconduct, in that it involved dishonesty, the only appropriate and proportionate sanction was to strike the second respondent off the roll.

The first respondent was ordered to pay costs of £15,000; the second respondent £6,000.

Nicholas Peter William Skinnard

Application 12090-2020

Admitted 1983

Hearing 17-18 September 2020

Reasons 2 November 2020

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

While a sole principal of Blight Board & Skinnard, between about 2016 and 2019, the respondent had dishonestly caused or authorised improper payments of sums held on the firm’s client account in relation to the following client account ledgers: Estates A, B, C and D, thereby breaching rule 20.1 of the SRA Accounts Rules 2011, and principles 2, 4, 5, 6 and 10 of the SRA Principles 2011.

He had dishonestly caused or authorised improper inter-ledger transfers of sums held on the firm’s client account in relation to the following client accounts ledgers: Estates A, B, C, D and J, thereby breaching rule 27.1 of the rules and principles 2, 4, 5, 6 and 10.

He had dishonestly and improperly made loans from sums held on the firm’s client account in relation to the following client account ledgers other than in the circumstances allowed for under rules 27.2 and 27.3 of the rules and without the knowledge or consent of executors or beneficiaries or other parties on whose behalf the sums were held: Estates A, B, C and D, thereby breaching rules 1.2(c), 27.1, 27.2, and 27.3 of the rules, and principles 2, 4, 5, 6 and 10.

He had dishonestly and improperly utilised client monies for his personal benefit in that: (i) he had utilised £83,748.39 from the client account ledger for Estate H for his personal benefit in order to meet his personal tax liability by way of a personal loan; (ii) instead of repaying that personal loan with his own funds, he had repaid it by taking an unauthorised loan from the unconnected client account of Estate A in the sum of £83,748.39 thus avoiding repayment of the loan for his personal benefit, thereby breaching rules 1.2(c) and 20.1 of the rules, failing to achieve outcome 3.4 of the SRA Code of Conduct 2011, and breaching principles 2, 4, 5, 6 and 10.

He had failed: (i) to actively progress the matters of Estates A, J and K; (ii) to provide accurate information to executors and/or beneficiaries with regard to the status of the case, the whereabouts/status of estate funds and/or the timescale for payment of legacy funds in relation to the matters of Estates A, J and K; (iii) to provide accurate information when in the matter of Estate J he had advised the executor and sole beneficiary that probate had been granted when it had not; and (iv) to provide accurate information when he had advised a charitable beneficiary of Estate K that cheques would be sent shortly, thereby breaching principles 5 and 6. In respect of (iii) and (iv) above, he had acted dishonestly.

He had dishonestly and improperly acted on, or purported to act on, behalf of borrowers and lenders when he had brokered or caused loans to be entered into in relation to the following client matters when there was a conflict of interest or a significant risk of conflict of interest between clients, and such work had involved providing banking facilities through client account where he was not undertaking legal work: Trust A; PH; Estate C; Estate E; Mr F; Estate G; ND, thereby breaching principles 2, 4, 6 and 10, and failing to achieve outcome (3.5) of the code, and rule 14.5 of the rules.

He had dishonestly failed to make payment promptly or at all to beneficiaries in relation to the following client matters: Estates B, D, J and K, thereby breaching principles 2, 4 and 6.

The respondent’s level of culpability was very high. The impact on the public and the reputation of the profession was also high. The respondent had kept beneficiaries out of their bequests and risked estate money in unsecured and improperly documented loans. Dishonesty was a major aggravating factor.

The respondent had not shown genuine insight into the misconduct. He said that he accepted that he had breached rules once they were pointed out to him, but he continued to maintain that it was the rules, particularly rule 14.5, rather than his conduct which were at fault.

Any lesser sanction than strike-off would not be appropriate in such a serious matter save if there were exceptional circumstances, and none had been raised.

The respondent was ordered to pay costs of £39,173.

Leanne Schrouder and Natasha Bournes

Application 12032-2019

Hearing 21 October 2020

Reasons 28 October 2020

The SDT ordered that the first respondent (admitted 2013) should pay a fine of £12,500, and that the second respondent (admitted 2000) should pay a fine of £6,500.

The first respondent had provided legal services to GH without providing him with any or any adequate information as to the options available to him in terms of securing legal representation; a client care letter; and any or any adequate information about the fees which she would charge or an estimate as to what those fees would be, thereby breaching principles 2, 4 and 6 of the SRA Principles 2011, and failing to meet outcomes l.4, 1.12 and 1.13 of the SRA Code of Conduct 2011.

She had requested and taken receipt of sums of money from GH without providing him with any invoices or receipts, thereby breaching principles 2, 4 and 6, and failing to meet outcome l.13.

She had submitted invoices for payment in respect of services provided to GH which had: (i) inaccurately described the provider of the services as ‘Apex Legal Services’, when those services had been provided by the first respondent; (ii) inaccurately described the services to which they purported to relate as ‘File Review’ and ‘Admin’; (iii) inaccurately described the services which had in fact been provided to GH; (iv) claimed the payment of sums not due from GH; (v) claimed the payment of sums from GH to which she was not entitled, thereby breaching principles 2 (as regards (ii), (iii), (iv) and (v) only), 4 and 6.

The second respondent had provided legal services to GH without providing him with: (i) any or any adequate information as to the options available to him in terms of securing legal representation; (ii) a client care letter; (iii) or any or any adequate information about the fees which she would charge or an estimate as to what those fees would be, thereby breaching principles 2, 4 and 6, and failing to meet outcomes 1.4, 1.12 and 1.13.

The second respondent had submitted invoices for payment in respect of services provided to GH which: (i) inaccurately described the services to which they purported to relate as ‘Administration Services’; (ii) were not submitted in accordance with any agreement with GH; (iii) claimed the payment of sums which were not due from GH, as the services provided to him were provided at the outset on a pro bono basis and there was no subsequent agreement with GH for the second respondent to claim payment; and (iv) the second respondent claimed for the payment of sums from GH to which she was not entitled, thereby breaching principles 2, 4 and 6. The parties had invited the SDT to deal with the allegations against the respondents in accordance with a statement of agreed facts and proposed outcome.

The first respondent’s misconduct was mitigated by her inexperience, and was isolated in that it only related to her conduct of GH’s matter. A financial penalty would reflect the seriousness of her misconduct.

The second respondent’s conduct was moderately serious but less culpable than that of the first respondent. A financial penalty would reflect the seriousness of her misconduct.

The respondents were each ordered to pay costs of £3,500.

Brian Bailes

On 19 November 2020, the SRA intervened into the closed practice of Brian Bailes (deceased), formerly of 7 Kings Avenue, Newcastle-under- Lyme, Staffordshire ST5 8DA. This decision was made by a single adjudicator.

The grounds of intervention were: it was necessary to intervene to protect the interests of clients or former clients and the beneficiaries of any trust of which Brian Bailes is or was a trustee (paragraph 1(1)(m) schedule 1 – part I Solicitors Act 1974).

No intervention agent has been appointed. Enquiries should be directed to heather.andersen@sra.org.uk, tel: 0121 820 5061.