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

Chidi Umezurike

Application 12112-2020

Admitted 2005

Hearing 24–26 November 2020

Reasons 18 December 2020

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

As a solicitor at and sole principal of CK Law Ltd, during an interview with an officer of the SRA, the respondent had given the following answers, both of which were false and/or misleading: ‘no’, to the question, ‘do you, or any manager of the firm, have any judgment debts against them?’, and ‘none’, to the question, ‘has the firm received any financial notices in relation to its debts?’, thereby breaching principles 2, 6 and 7 of the SRA Principles 2011, and failing to achieve outcome 10.6 of the SRA Code of Conduct 2011. He had acted dishonestly.

As at 31 August 2019, a cash shortage of at least £20,433.10 had existed upon the firm’s client account, which was caused by client money, in the form of unpaid professional disbursements, not having been paid or transferred to client account timeously or at all, and a number of client to office account transfers, which were unjustified and/or improper, thereby breaching rules 1.2, 6.1, 7.1, 7.2, 17.1, 17.2, 19.1, 20.1 and 20.6 of the SRA Accounts Rules 2011; breaching principles 2, 4, 6, 7, 8 and 10; failing to achieve outcome 1.1; and breaching rules 8.5(c) and 8.5(e) of the SRA Authorisation Rules 2011. He had acted dishonestly.

He had caused or allowed up to 14 client to office account transfers which were unjustified and/or improper. To the extent not already covered by the previous allegation, he had breached rules 1.2, 6.1, 7.1, 7.2, 17.2, 17.7, 20.1 and 20.3 of the SRA Accounts Rules 2011, principles 2, 4, 6, 7, 8 and 10; failed to achieve outcome 1.1 and breached rules 8.5(c) and 8.5(e) of the SRA Authorisation Rules 2011. He had acted dishonestly.

He had failed adequately or timeously to comply with a statutory production notice, thereby breaching principles 7 and 6, and failing to achieve outcomes 10.6 and 10.9.

He had caused or allowed retrospective changes to be made to ledger entries and/or cashbooks which were subsequently passed to the SRA, thereby breaching principles 2, 6 and 7, and failing to achieve outcome 10.6. He had acted dishonestly.

The respondent’s motivation for his misconduct was to keep his firm trading. He had deliberately misled the regulator when answering questions, and had retrospectively amended financial records so as to disguise his improper conduct. His conduct had caused significant harm to the reputation of the profession and was aggravated by his dishonesty. The respondent had a previously unblemished career. He had shown limited insight as regards his admission as to the facts, the SRA Accounts Rules 2011 breaches and that his conduct had been reckless. His cooperation with the SRA was to a large degree negated by his attempt to mislead its officers.

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 £39,599.

Catherine Jane Limbert (aka Williamson)

Application 12001-2019

Admitted 1995

Hearing 19-20 November 2020

Reasons 23 November 2020

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

While in practice as a solicitor at Cognitive Law Limited, the respondent had failed to abide by the firm’s policy for client due diligence implemented in compliance with the Money Laundering Regulations 2007, thereby breaching or failing to achieve principle 8 of the SRA Principles 2011, and outcome O(7.5) of the SRA Code of Conduct 2011.

She had made a statement to her employer, namely that she had never been the subject of any investigation by any regulatory department of the SRA, which was untrue and which she knew, or ought to have known, to be untrue at the time at which it was made, thereby breaching principles 2 and 6, and acting dishonestly.

She had held client money belonging to clients of the firm to a total value of £3,410 in the bank account of a third party, breaching principles 2, 6 and 10, and rule 14.1 of the SRA Accounts Rules 2011.

The parties applied for the matter to be dealt with by way of an agreed outcome.

The SDT had reviewed all the material before it and was satisfied that the respondent’s admissions had been properly made.

The SDT considered that the respondent’s misconduct was so serious that lesser sanctions such as a reprimand, financial penalty or definite suspension, did not adequately reflect the seriousness of her misconduct.

The protection of the public and the protection of the reputation of the profession demanded that the respondent be struck off the roll. In the circumstances, the agreed sanction of striking the respondent off the roll was appropriate and proportionate to the seriousness of her admitted misconduct. And the SDT approved the proposed sanction agreed by the parties.

The respondent was ordered to pay costs of £7,177.

Vincent Howard O’Neil

Application 12064-2020

Admitted 1980

Hearing 6-7 October 2020

Reasons 18 December 2020

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

By virtue of a contract dated 4 July 2014, the respondent had agreed to purchase property A from person A, who was his client in relation to a related transaction, but he had failed to complete the purchase and properly discharge a mortgage. He had then failed to disclose that failure to person A, thereby breaching principles 2 and 6 of the SRA Principles 2011, and failing to achieve outcome 11.1 of the SRA Code of Conduct 2011.

From a date unknown between 28 April 2014 and 4 July 2014, the respondent had continued to act on behalf of persons A and B in their linked purchase of property B in the knowledge that a conflict had arisen (or that there was a significant risk that such a conflict might arise) between his own interests and those of his clients, thereby breaching principles 2, 4 and 6, and failing to achieve outcome 3.4 of the code.

In the course of the purchase of property B, the respondent had knowingly failed to disclose to person C that a first charge over property A in favour of L Bank PLC would not be redeemed by him upon completion; and that the balance of the purchase monies for property B would not be coming from the sale of property A in circumstances where he was bound to disclose that information to person C, thereby breaching principles 2 and 6. He had acted dishonestly.

Although the respondent had had a previously long unblemished career, as a very experienced solicitor, he should have known that it was absolutely sacrosanct that solicitors did not take advantage of clients or dishonestly mislead a colleague for their own personal financial gain. The respondent could not be trusted. There were no exceptional circumstances and the appropriate sanction was to strike the respondent from the roll.

The respondent was ordered to pay costs of £11,081.

Edward Anthony Bromet

Application 12048-2020

Admitted 1996

Hearing 10-13 November 2020

Reasons 20 November 2020

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

1.1 The respondent had made four improper transfers totalling £19,000 from his firm’s client account to the office account, thereby breaching, or failing to achieve: 1.1.1 principles 2, 4, 6 and [STAYED] of the SRA Principles 2011; 1.1.2 [STAYED]; and 1.1.3 outcome 3.4 of the SRA Code of Conduct 2011.

1.2 In relation to the transfers referred to in 1.1 above, the respondent had provided misleading and/or incomplete information to his co-trustee/client, thereby breaching principles 2, 4 and 6.

The respondent had made three improper transfers totalling £28,000 from the firm’s designated deposit client account to the office account, thereby breaching principles 2, 6 and 10, and rules 17.7 and 20.1 of the SRA Accounts Rules (2011).

The respondent had inappropriately allowed the firm’s letterhead and template letters to be used by another organisation, thereby breaching, or failing to achieve principle 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 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.

The SDT was further satisfied that the extant allegations, which were denied, could properly be stayed. The admissions made, in particular the admission to one count of dishonesty, sufficiently addressed the gravamen of the misconduct. It was neither proportionate nor in the public interest for the matter to proceed to a contested hearing on the discrete allegations outstanding, which would not add to the sanction in any event.

The SDT concluded that the seriousness of the respondent’s misconduct was such that the protection of the public and the reputation of the profession required that he be struck off the roll. It noted the undertaking provided by the respondent to the applicant that he would not, at any future date, apply for readmission as a solicitor. Accordingly the tribunal approved the application for matters to be dealt with by way of an agreed outcome.

The respondent was ordered to pay costs of £28,000.