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

Richard Clive Hallows

Application 12094-2020

Admitted 1983

Hearing 6-8 October 2020

Reasons 22 October 2020

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

While a sole principal of Hallows Associates the respondent had:

  • dishonestly made improper withdrawals and/or transfers in respect of one or more of the client accounts for clients A, G, C, D, E and F, thereby breaching principles 2, 6 and 10 of the SRA Principles 2011, failing to achieve outcome 1.2 of the SRA Code of Conduct 2011, and breaching rules 1 and 20 of the SRA Accounts Rules 2011;
  • dishonestly attempted to conceal improper withdrawals from the client account, in breach of his obligations under principles 2, 6 and 10;
  • dishonestly misled client A, in breach of principles 2, 4, 5 and 6;
  • dishonestly misled law firm A, estate agent A and the beneficiaries of client D’s estate, in breach of principles 2 and 6;
  • failed to keep accurate books of account, in breach of principles 2, 6 and 10, and rules 1 and 29 of the rules, and failed to do any reconciliations between December 2017 and February 2018;
  • caused a client account shortfall of at least £884,580.41 as at 31 January 2018 which was not replaced, in breach of principles 2, 6, 7 and 10, and rule 7 of the rules;
  • dishonestly and in breach of principles 2 and 6 failed to keep undertakings given in respect of clients A, F and B.

The respondent had caused huge damage to the reputation of the profession. His clients had suffered significant harm, with a number of them having to be recompensed by the Compensation Fund.

His actions were premeditated, calculated and repeated over a significant period of time.

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

The respondent was ordered to pay costs of £63,320.

Peter Jan Bujakowski, Craig Nicholas Hollingdrake, Ian John Norman Gee and Elaine Saunders

Application 12091-2020

Hearing 28 September 2020

Reasons 1 October 2020

The SDT ordered that the second respondent (admitted 1989) should pay a fine of £7,500. The SDT further ordered that, as from 28 September 2020, except in accordance with Law Society permission: (i) no solicitor should employ or remunerate the fourth respondent (graduate member of the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives) in connection with his/her practice as a solicitor; (ii) no employee of a solicitor should employ or remunerate the fourth respondent in connection with the solicitor’s practice; (iii) no recognised body should employ or remunerate the fourth respondent; (iv) no manager or employee of a recognised body should employ or remunerate the fourth respondent in connection with the business of that body; (v) no recognised body or manager or employee of such a body should permit the fourth respondent to be a manager of the body; and (vi) no recognised body or manager or employee of such a body should permit the fourth respondent to have an interest in the body. [The allegations and admissions with respect to the second and fourth respondents related to work undertaken in relation to the ‘client A scheme’ between 2011 and 2016.]

The second respondent had, while a director of JWK Legal Group Limited and while holding the position of the firm’s compliance officer for finance and administration:

(a) failed to take any or adequate measures to prevent the firm from providing a banking facility to the client A group or any individual or entity related to it, thereby breaching its obligations under rule 14.5 of the SRA Accounts Rules 2011;

(b) given effect to inter-ledger transfers of sums held on the firm’s client account in breach of rules 27.1 and 14.5 of the rules; and

(c) made payments from the firm’s client account other than in the circumstances allowed under rule 20.1 of the rules, thereby breaching principles 7 and 8 of the SRA Principles 2011, and rule 8.5(e) of the SRA Authorisation Rules 2011.

While employed to handle real estate transactions at the firm, the fourth respondent had been guilty of conduct of such a nature that in the opinion of the SRA it would be undesirable for her to be involved in a legal practice, in that:

(i) she had failed to consider whether the contents of such marketing materials seen by her overstated the likely returns to potential buyers (some of whom were or might be unrepresented), thereby breaching principle 6;

(ii) she had failed to consider whether the ‘buy back’ arrangement in the contractual documents provided meaningful security for buyers (some of whom were or might be unrepresented), thereby breaching principle 6; and

(iii) she had caused or allowed transfers from the firm’s client account of monies consisting of sums received from buyers (i.e. by way of the purchase price for the assets the buyers were acquiring) other than in respect of instructions relating to an underlying transaction in that the recipient of such transfers was not the seller of the asset or otherwise connected with the underlying transaction, thereby breaching rules 14.5 and 20.1 of the rules.

The parties had invited the SDT to deal with the allegations against the second and fourth respondents in accordance with statements of agreed facts and outcome.

The SDT was satisfied on the balance of probabilities that the second and fourth respondents’ admissions had been properly made.

The second respondent was not the main protagonist and the allegations against him were limited in scope and nature. The breaches in his case were inadvertent and had not caused loss to clients or purchasers.

As COFA of the firm, the second respondent should have been more vigilant, and his culpability arose from his role as the firm’s COFA. His conduct had been rightly assessed as being ‘moderately serious’.

While the fourth respondent was not a qualified solicitor nor a legal executive (i.e. a fellow of CILEx), she was not without experience and should have exercised more vigilance and thought.

However, she did not have responsibility as a director or solicitor at the firm.

In the light of the admissions she had made and her mitigation, the proposed outcome represented a proportionate resolution of the matter which was in the public interest.

The second and fourth respondents were each ordered to pay cost of £9,093.75 plus VAT.

Peter Jan Bujakowski, Craig Nicholas Hollingdrake, Ian John Norman Gee and Elaine Saunders

Application 12091-2020

Hearing 20 October 2020

Reasons 13 November 2020

The SDT ordered that the first respondent (admitted 1976) should pay a fine of £20,000. The SDT granted the applicant’s application that all the allegations made against the third respondent (admitted 1979) should be withdrawn, and made no order as to costs.

1.1 While a partner in JWK Legal Group Limited and while acting in respect of property schemes or transactions on behalf of a company or companies forming part of the client A group, the first respondent had caused or allowed contractual documents to be prepared and sent to buyers, including unrepresented buyers, where the marketing materials relating  to such assets known by him to have been provided to buyers were inconsistent with the contractual documents sent to buyers, and misleading or capable of misleading potential buyers as to the security, future returns, or value of the assets being sold, thereby breaching principle 6 of the SRA Principles 2011.

1.2 He had caused or allowed contractual documents to be prepared and sent to buyers, including unrepresented buyers, which did not provide security, in the form of a ‘buy back’ arrangement, in the manner known by him to have been described to buyers in marketing materials, thereby breaching principle 6.

1.3 He had caused or allowed transfers from the firm’s client account of monies consisting of sums received from buyers by way of the purchase price for assets other than in respect of instructions relating to an underlying transaction in that the recipient of such transfers was not the seller of the asset or otherwise connected with the underlying transaction, thereby breaching rules 14.5 and 20.1 of the SRA Accounts Rules 2011.

1.4 He had caused or allowed inter-ledger transfers of monies held on the firm’s client account other than in respect of instructions relating to an underlying transaction, thereby breaching rules 14.5 and 27.1 of the rules.

1.5 This allegation was withdrawn: In respect of the client A schemes, facilitated a scheme or schemes which bore hallmarks of a dubious investment scheme and in doing so breached one or both of principle 2 and principle 6.

The case against the second and fourth respondents had been dealt with by way of an agreed outcome on an earlier date. (See above decision).

The parties had invited the SDT to deal with the allegations against the first respondent in accordance with a statement of agreed facts (SAF) and outcome. That included seeking permission to withdraw certain allegations as detailed below. The parties had invited the SDT to permit the allegation against the third respondent to be withdrawn in its entirety if it had agreed to approve the SAF in respect of the first respondent.

The SDT was satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that the first respondent’s admissions had been properly made. In the circumstances of those admissions and the material set out in the SAF, the SDT was also satisfied that it was reasonable and proportionate to permit the applicant to withdraw allegation 1.5 and those parts of allegations 1.1 and 1.2 that alleged a lack of integrity in breach of principle 2.

The appropriate sanction in respect of the first respondent’s misconduct was a fine.  

The case against the third respondent had been carefully reviewed by the applicant in the context of the disposal of matters in relation to the other respondents. There was no pressing public interest in requiring the matter against the third respondent to proceed on the single remaining allegation, and leave for the allegation to be withdrawn was granted.

The first respondent was ordered to pay costs of £9,093 plus VAT where applicable.

Robert Ian Cartmell

Application 12080-2020

Admitted 1996

Hearing 29-30 September 2020

Reasons 10 November 2020

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

While in practice as a managing director at Cartmell & Co Limited, the respondent had failed to ensure that wills and trust deeds were properly executed, in that he had asked witnesses to witness the signatures of clients, despite knowing that this had not been done in the presence of his clients, potentially invalidating the wills and trusts, and had caused and or permitted a second certificate provider for lasting powers of attorney to sign declarations certifying that she had formed an opinion that the donors understood the purposes of the LPA and were not being pressured into granting the LPA, when she could not have formed that opinion, not having been present when the donor clients signed the documents, thereby breaching principles 2, 4, 5 and 6 of the SRA Principles 2011, and failing to achieve outcomes 1.2 and 1.5 of the SRA Code of Conduct 2011. He had acted dishonestly.

He had acted for clients, Mr and Ms S, in circumstances where his own duties as a trustee conflicted with the interests of his clients and/or the beneficiaries of the trust, thereby breaching principles 3 and 6.

The misconduct had been planned in relation to the signing of the wills. The motivation had been to cut corners, in the respondent’s mistaken belief that he had been helping his clients.

Harm had clearly been caused to the reputation of the profession. The respondent was fortunate that no harm had actually been caused to individuals. By involving others, most particularly staff, in wrongly signing the documents the respondent had potentially jeopardised their career prospects.

The misconduct was aggravated by the finding of dishonesty. He had demonstrated some insight in his evidence in mitigation, and he had not gained from his actions.

The misconduct was at the highest level and the only appropriate sanction was a strike-off. There were no exceptional circumstances that would justify a lesser sanction. He was ordered to pay costs of £17,500.

Jonathan Thomas Gorman

Application 12086-2020

Admitted 2011

Hearing 12 October 2020

Reasons 9 November 2020

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

While in practice as a solicitor and head of commercial property at EAD Solicitors LLP, the respondent had acted in one or more property transactions in which he had failed properly to advise his clients and/or protect their interests, thereby breaching principles 2, 4, 5, 6 and 10 of the SRA Principles 2011. He had acted dishonestly.

In acting in one or more property transactions, he had failed to perform an undertaking which he had given to the purchaser’s solicitors, thereby breaching principles 2 and 6, and failing to achieve outcome 11.2 of the SRA Code of Conduct 2011. He had acted dishonestly.

He had caused or allowed the firm’s client account to be used as a banking facility by means of payments to third parties, contrary to rules 14.5 and 20.1 of the SRA Accounts Rules 2011, thereby breaching principles 2 and 6. He had acted dishonestly.

It was clear that there was a close and complicit relationship between the respondent and RW, who had featured in many of the transactions. RW had been admitted as a solicitor in 2008 and had worked with the respondent at a Liverpool firm. In October 2012, the applicant had brought proceedings before the SDT against RW in respect of conveyancing irregularities. RW had been fined £2,000 and undertaken to remove himself from the roll. The SDT inferred that the benefit derived by the respondent was continued business with RW and the revenue which that generated for the respondent and the firm.

Overall, the respondent’s culpability was high. There was evidence of direct harm to his clients. His misconduct had not only damaged the profession in a general way but had done great damage to those of his colleagues engaged in property transactions and conveyancing, in whom the public place great trust.

There was no evidence of any genuine insight into his conduct; no open or frank admissions and little if any cooperation with his regulator. Further, there was no evidence that the respondent’s misconduct was the result of deception by a third party.

Strike-off from the roll was the only appropriate sanction, as there were no exceptional circumstances in the respondent’s case.

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