• Application 11565-2016
  • Admitted 1991
  • Hearing 22, 23 February 2017
  • Reasons 10 March 2017

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

Between 4 September 2015 and 15 March 2016, by improperly transferring a minimum sum of £77,387 from the client account of Total Law, a firm of which he was the recognised sole practitioner, to that firm’s office account, the respondent had breached principles 2 and 6 of the SRA Principles 2011; and rules 1.2(a), 1.2(c), 20.1 and 20.3 of the SRA Accounts Rules 2011. In so doing, he had acted dishonestly.

By failing to remedy the consequent shortage on the client account arising from the transfers referred to above he had breached rule 7.1 of the rules.

Between 10 December 2015 and 4 July 2016, he had failed to pay the total sum of £88,500 received on behalf of his client Ms AK, to Ms AK, despite her numerous requests for him to do so, and had therefore breached principles 2, 4, 5 and 6; and rule 14.3 of the rules. In so doing, he had acted dishonestly.

By failing to pay the sums of £2,887 and £1,000 due to his clients Ms SB and Ms FR respectively, he had breached principles 2, 4, 5 and 6; and rule 14.3 of the rules.

During the period 15 September 2015 (at the latest) to 4 July 2016, he had failed to keep accounting records properly written up to show Total Law’s dealings with client money and had thereby each breached principles 7 and 8; and rule 29.2 of the rules.

By failing to notify the SRA that he had been served with a bankruptcy petition dated 26 May 2015 and that he had consequently been adjudged bankrupt on 18 May 2016, he had breached principle 7 and failed to achieve outcome 10.3 of the SRA Code of Conduct 2011.

Given the finding of dishonesty, it was necessary to consider striking the respondent off the roll.

The respondent’s dishonesty was extensive. It had continued over eight months and involved 35 separate transactions; his misconduct was not merely a ‘one-off’ or a ‘moment of madness’, but was a sustained and continuing course of conduct. The impact of his dishonesty on both Ms AK and on the wider reputation of the profession was significant.

Each of the difficulties the respondent had had to deal with at the time of his misconduct, on their own, would have been extremely difficult for anyone to cope with. Taken together, and given the respondent’s own health, the respondent would have been under significant pressure and stress.

While the SDT recognised and empathised with the very difficult circumstances the respondent had faced, it did not consider that they fell within the residual category of cases in which a finding of dishonesty would not merit striking off.

Similarly, while the regard in which the respondent was held was clear, that did not outweigh the seriousness of his proven and admitted misconduct.

The respondent was ordered to pay costs of £5,000.