• Application 11658-2017
  • Admitted 2009
  • Hearing 8 March 2018
  • Reasons 13 March 2018

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

The respondent had submitted 443 improper claims for costs and disbursements to the Legal Aid Agency totalling £994,396.70 and had thereby breached principles 2 and 6 of the SRA Principles 2011 and rules 1.02 and 1.06 of the Solicitors Code of Conduct 2007, and had failed to achieve outcome 11.1 of the SRA Code of Conduct 2011. He had acted dishonestly.

By abandoning his practice, removing all client files and computers containing electronic files from Nieko Solicitors and failing to notify the SRA of the firm’s closure he had breached principles 2, 4, 6, 7 and 10; and had failed to achieve outcome 10.13 of the code by failing to effect an orderly and transparent wind-down of activities, including informing the SRA before the firm closed.

The respondent’s misconduct meant that the LAA had paid out £994,396.70 in respect of 443 improper claims. The LAA was funded by public money and there had therefore been indirect harm to the public as well as considerable harm to the reputation of the profession.

The extent of the impact on those affected by the misconduct was extensive. The LAA had lost money, fee-earners at the firm had lost their jobs and with the abandonment of the practice the service to clients, some of whom were imprisoned or detained, was disrupted.

Client files had not been recovered, meaning it was unclear what advice was required by whom. The overall seriousness of the misconduct was at the highest level so that strike-off was the only possible sanction. There were no exceptional circumstances that meant it should be reduced.

The respondent was ordered to pay costs of £14,000.