• Application 11533-2016
• Admitted 2009
• Hearing 24 January 2017
• Reasons 6 February 2017
The SDT ordered that the respondent should pay a fine of £2,500.
The rule 5 statement included allegations against the respondent and Mr AM, another director of the firm. On 2 November 2016 the proceedings against the respondent and Mr AM were severed.
1.1. Between December 2014 and October 2015, the respondent had caused or allowed the transfer of sums from the firm’s client account to the firm’s office account in respect of fees otherwise than in accordance with rules 17.2, 20.1 and 20.2 of the SRA Accounts Rules 2011, and in doing so had breached principles 2, 4, 6, 7, 8 and 10 of the SRA Principles 2011.
1.2. The respondent had failed promptly to remedy breaches of the 2011 rules on discovery, in that he had failed promptly to remedy the facts and matters set out at 1.1 above, and in doing so had breached rule 7.1 of the 2011 rules and principles 4, 6, 7, 8 and 10.
1.3. During 2014, the respondent failed to report the serious financial difficulty of the firm to the SRA, and in doing so had breached principle 7 and had failed to achieve outcome 10.3 of the Solicitors Code of Conduct 2011.
3. In his capacity as the firm’s compliance officer for legal practice the respondent had failed to ensure compliance with the firm’s regulatory obligations and had failed to report material issues to the SRA, contrary to rule 8.5 of the SRA Authorisation Rules 2011.
4.1. In respect of the facts and matters set out at 1.1 above, the respondent had failed to act with integrity contrary to principle 2.
The respondent’s misconduct was deliberate, calculated and repeated. The funds had, by and large, been taken from matters where the firm acted for the estate of a deceased. The respondent had failed to notify his regulator as to what was happening and had concealed the wrongdoing.
The respondent was the minority shareholder, and Mr AM had actually made the transfers and had adopted a bullish attitude. However, it could not be said that the misconduct had resulted from Mr AM’s deception. The respondent had known there was an issue and had allowed it to continue.
A fine of £7,500 was the appropriate sanction. However, the respondent had produced evidence that he was impecunious. In the light of the information available as to the respondent’s means it was appropriate to reduce the level of the fine to £2,500.
The respondent was ordered to pay costs of £5,000.