22-07-2013

SRA successfully appeals SDT decision to fine

Law Society (Solicitors Regulation Authority) v Emeana and others         [2013] All ER (D) 220 (Jul)

A solicitor, A, purported to be in partnership with another solicitor, E, under the partnership name Ross Kingsley and Co. Following investigation by the Solicitors Regulation Authority ,A was found to have entered into a sham practice arrangement to facilitate E being able to practise contrary to Practice Rule 13 of the Solicitors Practice Rules 1990. During the forensic examination by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (the authority), A attempted, falsely, to claim that he had played a full role in the firm. They were subsequently fined. There were then other allegations against both in respect of conduct relating to another partnership including irregularities in respect of billing , compliance issues with the Solicitors Introduction and Referral Code 1990, supervision requirements and accounts records. A fine was imposed. A subsequent investigation later resulted in further fines in respect of accounts rules matters and issues with suspected mortgage fraud.

The SRA appealed on the basis that the imposition of fines was inappropriate and a striking off order had been suitable in all the circumstances of the case.

The appeal was allowed on the basis that it was sometimes appropriate for an appellate court to interfere with the wide discretion vested in disciplinary tribunals in cases where the sanction imposed was clearly inappropriate to reflect the seriousness of the conduct in question. Important factors in the case of a solicitor is the requirement at all times to uphold the standards of probity integrity and trustworthiness. The reputation of the profession requires those qualities in every solicitor and even if the case falls short of dishonesty the sanction of striking off might still be required to protect that reputation. The Court found that there had been insufficient mitigation advanced by all three solicitors for there to have been any lesser sanction suitable to protect the reputation of the profession. All three were ordered to be struck off the Roll.