John Allan Jones and Lucinda Jane Rosemary Rowberry
Hearing 23, 24 May 2017
Reasons 12 June 2017
The SDT ordered that the first respondent (admitted 1972) should be struck off the roll; and that the second respondent (admitted 1975) should pay a fine of £5,000.
By improperly transferring, or allowing to be transferred, the sums of £17,400 and £39,700 from the client account of a firm of which they were each principals to office account, the first respondent had breached principle 2 of the SRA Principles 2011, and both respondents had breached principle 6, and rules 1.2(a), 1.2(c), 20.1 and 20.3 of the SRA Accounts Rules 2011. In so doing, the first respondent had acted dishonestly.
By transferring the sums of £4,200, £3,600, £2,400 and £3,600 from the firm’s client account to office account on account of costs, but before sending a bill of costs or other written notification to the relevant client, the first respondent had breached principle 2 and both respondents had breached principle 6, and rules 17.2, 20.1 and 20.3 of the rules. In so doing, the first respondent had acted dishonestly.
By failing to remedy the consequent shortage on the client account arising from those transfers, the respondents had breached rule 7.1 of the rules.
The respondents had failed to keep accounting records properly written up to show the firm’s dealings with client money and had thereby breached principles 7 and 8 and rule 29.2 of the rules.
The first respondent alone had, in advising a forensic investigation officer that certain client matters had been resolved and that invoices had been sent out when he knew that was not true, breached principles 2, 6 and 7. In so doing, he had acted dishonestly.
In transferring costs/raising an invoice for an amount which he knew to be in excess of the amount properly due, the first respondent had breached principles 2, 4 and 6. In so doing, he had acted dishonestly.
In preparing invoices and/or transferring monies from client account to office account without undertaking any substantive evaluation as to the level of work that could be reasonably charged to the client, the first respondent had breached principles 2, 4, 5 and 6.
Further, the first and second respondents had withdrawn or arranged to be withdrawn £21,000 from the firm’s client bank account, purportedly for their client which was not subsequently accounted for to that client, resulting in a shortage on client account. The first respondent had therefore breached principle 2, and both respondents had breached principles 6 and 10 and rule 14.3 of the rules.
The first respondent had, by instructing the second respondent to withdraw £21,000 in cash from the firm’s client bank account and carry it back to the firm’s offices without taking adequate or any steps to safeguard that money, breached principle 10.
The second respondent had by following those instructions, breached principle 10.
Dishonesty had been found proved against the first respondent. He had misused his position and duped his business partner.
There was no evidence of exceptional circumstances. The appropriate sanction was for the first respondent to be struck off.
The second respondent’s culpability was low. Her actions were as a result of her misplaced trust in her business partner of many years. However, although her culpability was low the overall seriousness of the misconduct was not. The appropriate sanction was a fine of £10,000, but in the light of her means the fine was reduced to £5,000.
The first respondent was ordered to pay costs of £10,000, and the second respondent to pay £4,575.