• Application 11165A-2013
  • Hearings 6-12 April, 3-4 August and 7-15 November 2017
  • Reasons 12 January 2018

The SDT ordered that the first respondent (admitted 1993) should be suspended from practice for two years from 15 November 2017. Upon the expiry of that term of suspension the first respondent should be subject indefinitely to the following conditions: that he might not practise as a sole practitioner or sole manager or sole owner of an authorised or recognised body; be a partner or member of a limited liability partnership, legal disciplinary practice or alternative business structure or other authorised or recognised body; be a compliance officer for legal practice or a compliance officer for finance and administration; hold client money; be a signatory on any client account; or work as a solicitor other than in employment approved by the SRA, with liberty to the first respondent or the applicant to apply to vary the conditions.

The SDT, pursuant to section 47(2)(g) of the Solicitors Act 1974, ordered that the second respondent (admitted 2009: name subsequently removed from the roll) should be prohibited from having her name restored to the roll except by order of the SDT.

The first respondent had caused or permitted monies to be withdrawn from client account, contrary to rule 22 of the Solicitors Accounts Rules 1998.

On discovering a cash shortage, he had failed promptly to remedy the breach of rule 22, contrary to rule 7 of the rules by failing to replace the money improperly withdrawn.

He had obtained a loan from a client without insisting that the client take independent legal advice, providing any security, or preparing any legal documentation to confirm the loan, contrary to principle 15 and rules l(a), (c) and (d) of the Solicitors Practice Rules 1990, and rules 1.02, 1.04, 1.06 and 3.01 of the Solicitors Code of Conduct 2007.

He had failed to comply with rule 30 of the 1998 rules.

He had failed promptly to return client monies to clients, contrary to rule 15 of the 1998 rules.

He had failed adequately or at all to supervise the work undertaken by staff contrary to rule 13 of the 1990 rules and rule 5 of the code.

The second respondent had constructed false documents and provided misleading information to third parties, to include clients and the SRA, contrary to rules 1.02, 1.04 and 1.06 of the code.

The first respondent had acted recklessly. The second respondent’s actions were dishonest.

In respect of the first, second, fourth and fifth allegations the first respondent had acted without integrity and in a way likely to diminish the trust the public placed in him and the legal profession, contrary to rules l(a) and (d) of the 1990 rules, rules 1.02 and 1.06 of the 2007 code, and principles 2 and 6 of the 2011 code.

It was necessary to impose restrictions on the first respondent’s practice but, taking into account the extent of his lack of insight and all the circumstances of the misconduct, the public would be offended if a lesser sanction than a suspension was imposed.

There had been a finding of dishonesty in respect of the second respondent. The public expectation would be that a solicitor guilty of such gross misconduct would have been struck off the roll had she been on it.

There were no exceptional circumstances that would have been engaged had the second respondent been on the roll. In the circumstances the SDT was satisfied that she should not be restored to the roll.

The first respondent was ordered to pay 85% of 75% of the costs to be assessed if not agreed.

The second respondent was ordered to pay 15% of 75% of the costs to be assessed if not agreed.